AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- USA Rugby is thrilled to announce that its youth program,Rookie Rugby, has won the International Rugby Board Development Award for 2011.
Union vice-chairman, Bob Latham, was on hand to accept the award on behalf of USA Rugby at the star-studded IRB Awards Ceremony on Sunday October 23 in Auckland, just one day after the New Zealand All Blacks won the 2011 Rugby World Cup there.
On the same night that the IRB announced the Player of the Year (Thierry Dusautoir, France), Team of the Year (New Zealand All Blacks), and inducted into the Rugby Hall of Fame legends Jonah Lomu (New Zealand) and South African captain Francois Pienaar (who was portrayed by Matt Damon in the 2009 feature film, Invictus), the IRB gave a nod to the growth of the youth game with the Development Award.
According to the IRB, Rookie Rugby “introduced a whole new raft of fans and athletes to the sport through programs administered through schools, community-based and state-based rugby organizations and USA Rugby national events. The initial aim was to introduce 100,000 new children to rugby but the reality has far outstripped that and continues to gather momentum.”
USA Rugby launched Rookie Rugby in 2008 as a non-contact introductory version of the game that enables young players to enjoy the camaraderie, fitness, and character building inherent in the sport. Rookie Rugby was played by over 350,000 children in 2010 and is on track to reach about a half million in 2011.
USA Rugby CEO, Nigel Melville, recognized the contributions of the youth rugby community in the United States in making Rookie Rugby a successful program.
“Rookie Rugby provides a framework and resources to local communities to introduce the game, but it is really the people on the ground who helped make it a success. We lobbed it up and they knocked it out of the park,” said Melville.
One of the many attractive aspects of Rookie Rugby is that it presents a low-cost and easily implemented fitness activity option for many schools and community programs. USA Rugby provides instructional resources such as lesson plans, videos of drills, and skill and game cards to ensure proper and easy implementation.
BALL FOR ALL SCHOOLS PROGRAM
To further attract educators and community organizations to rugby, Sports Authority, a leading sporting goods retailer in the United States, has partnered with USA Rugby to offer free size four Rookie Rugby balls to schools.
The ‘Ball for All Schools’ program (ballforallschools.usarugby.org) launched in early August and over 500 schools have taken part all over the United States.
The USA Eagles’ Rugby World Cup players Eric Fry, Kevin Swiryn, Colin Hawley, Mate Moeakiola, Inaki Basauri, Nic Johnson, and Blaine Scully even used their considerable acting abilities to help promote Rookie Rugby and the Ball for All Schools programs.
The award comes at an exciting time for USA Rugby as the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the2011 Pan-American Games have created a significant amount of interest in the game, rapidly increasing its exposure in the United States.