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Serevi Rugby is the coaching and teaching entity of the legendary sevens player, Waisale Serevi, who made magic happen for Fiji when he stepped on the pitch from 1989-2005. His Seattle-based program seeks to become the premiere youth rugby development brand in the United States, delivering the sport through academies, coaching workshops, development and high performance training camps, and seasonal/monthly institutes.
In September of this year, Serevi partnered with HSBC (Hong Kong Shanghai Bank) to bring rugby youth festivals across North America. Its first stop was New York City, where, over two-days, it attracted more than 1,000 Harlem and Queens middle school students, introduced to rugby for the first time. A week later, Serevi partnered with USA Rugby to offer teaching to 130 west side Chicago’s Noble Network of Charter School high school girls a day before the USA v. New Zealand match.
Everyone agreed that at both city events were remarkable experiences for the students. The team was led by Waisale Serevi, England’s Ben Gollings, and Matt Hawkins. Also participating were other highly esteemed rugby personnel, including Hannah Lockwood (USA 7s Player), Pate Tuilevuka (former USA Rugby Player), Mike Tolkin (USA 15s Coach), Carlin Isles (USA 7s Player), Kellen Gordon, Carly Mackinnon, and me.
The program’s success stemmed from the eagerness of the high schoolers particularly the Noble Network girls. Despite the sub 30-degree temperatures and pelting hail, the students participated fully with enthusiasm and energy.
Nobel Network’s Rowe Clarke’s sophomore Nakiyah Irving has played rugby for a year and half. She said, “Before I played, I was a swimmer and ran track. Rugby is my favorite of the three sports because you can be aggressive while having fun in a disciplined setting. This event was great because I was finally able to meet and play with some of the girls that I always play against. Rugby is something that I love and want to play in college and beyond.”
The role of Serevi Rugby is crucial to the development and growth of the game for girls and inner city youth. It is vital that this and other programs focus on lessening the gender disparity and expose young girls to rugby. The sport is a viable and promising option as parents and teachers look for an activity that offers opportunity for young female athletes of every size. In addition to offering a physical outlet, rugby is tool of gracious empowerment that promotes positive qualities of teamwork and fair play. It also offers mental and physical benefits to inner city youth as well, creating pathways to education, travel, and social networking on a global scale.
Waisale Serevi has dedicated his life assuring that young children learn how to play. He affirmed, “Rugby has given me a lot and I want to give back. I found my own way to the top, but with the efforts of Chris and Julie Prentice and the rest of the Serevi team, we are providing a pathway for kids to be successful through quality coaching and support. Our main objective is to grow the sport and teach as many kids into rugby as possible.”
Looking ahead in 2015, Serevi Rugby will be hosting workshops and/or training camps in Las Vegas, Boston, Charlotte, San Diego, Atlanta, College Park (MD), Glendale, and New York as well as others events across the country. The mission remains to cultivate young rugby players, giving them all a chance to play this great game.