Students at Tsuut’ina Junior Senior High School near Calgary often play softball, floor hockey, volleyball and basketball. None of the kids had tried the sport of rugby until Friday morning when members of the rugby community in Canada and Australia held a one-hour clinic to introduce them to the game.
Growing up, the school principal Jeff Horvath was on the rugby team at St. Francis High School in Calgary and said he wanted to share that experience with his students.
“That’s what we love to do at this school,” Horvath said. “We try to expose students to new experiences to allow them to dream big.”
Dozens of kids and teachers learned the rules and techniques of the game from top Canadian players like Andrea Burk and Maria Samson.
“Rugby is that perfect sport for people who transfer over from hockey, lacrosse, other sports like that,” said Samson, who was voted Canada’s top female rugby player in 2012.
“You can definitely see the vision right away, as soon as you give them some basic rules they just dive right into it.”
Chris Mckenzie is one of two rugby players who travelled all the way from Sydney, Australia to promote the game in Canada.
“At home, we have a strong indigenous heritage amongst sport, some fantastic athletes, they’re just very naturally gifted,” Mckenzie said. “We see the qualities here today, the kids have taken to rugby quite easily.”
Those kids include Grade 10 student Kristian Bigplume who usually does track and field and plays basketball.
“This is the first time it ever happened here,” Bigplume said. “I’m really proud that this was introduced to us. It’s fun and I’d like to see it happen more often to our school.”
Grade 11 student Isiah Onespot loved how athletic the sport is.
“I had a lot of fun,” Onespot said. “I got kinda dirty, there was a lot of diving but it was fun though.”
Friday’s clinic at Tsuut’ina is part of a rugby festival in Calgary called For the Love of the Game which runs through the weekend at venues all over Calgary.