The Sarnia Saints Rugby Club wants to increase its grassroots base by changing the perception their sport is risky and unsafe.
“I’ve heard all of that,” said Saints women’s roster player Lauren Wilks, referring to those who contend rugby leads to injuries and concussions because players lack equipment.
“Before they let you on the pitch you learn how to tackle, and more importantly, how to be tackled,” said the two-time national women’s champion with St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, who will continue her collegiate career at Brock University in September.
“I think that safety is a really big part of the game,” she added.
Two all-day clinics for high school players and coaches April 9 and 10 at Norm Perry Park will emphasize the basics of the game, including player safety, she said.
A similar event last year attracted nearly 400 players.
Meanwhile, the Saints are introducing a clinic for elementary school-age children this season. They will tentatively begin the third week of May and continue through mid-July, each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for (kids) to enter a low-cost sport,” said Saints volunteer Michael Smith, who plans to enroll his own three and five-year old children in the program.
“It’s all about learning the ABC’s of rugby which are agility, balance, coordination and speed. And once you’ve learned those skills, they are transferable to other sports.”
The clinic won’t include any physical contact, he said.
“That a key point that parents need to know. It’s all about running and passing and enjoying the game.”
Smith said rugby gives young people an opportunity to travel and experience other cultures, pointing to the recent return of the SCITS rugby side from a tour of England.
The Saints U-18 boys squads will return the favour, hosting two sides from England this summer. The Glyn School visits July 13 and the Oratory School of London will be here Aug. 14.