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Oklahoma University hosted a youth 7s clinic and tournament Saturday. Kids from ages eight to 19 took part, many of whom had
never played rugby of any kind before, let alone 7s. They started the day by setting up coaching stations, focusing on the contact area, set pieces and defense.
“We spent a couple hours doing clinic work with them. The coaches and players both were a little more appreciative of that part of it, just kind of teaching them a little more about 7s,” said OU coach Kenneth Forehand. “Some of the kids who I knew didn’t know how to play rugby, it was hard to tell once they got going, because I think 7s is so natural for some of them.”
Later in the day, a six-team high school boy’s tournament was set up. There were some schools who’d sent enough to field their own team, but also numerous individuals who came on their own or with a couple buddies.
“A football player out of Wichita Falls showed up by himself, said he wanted to learn how to play rugby, and I said ‘alright, let’s go’,” said Forehand. “That’s the idea behind it, and what I’d like to push to people in the future is that this is a great time for the high schools to recruit, grab that football player, grab that kid you’re not sure about and play a little 7s. The football player from Wichita Falls said ‘Man I love this, this is great.’ He was just having a blast.”
In the boy’s final, the Norman Colts defeated Canton 21-19.
Though there weren’t enough teams to warrant a girl’s tournament, several girls participated, with some driving a distance to do so.
“Some came from Lubbock, some from a small town in Oklahoma,” said Forehand. “One mom, I think she’d played or been around rugby or something, and the girls had talked about it, so she brought them up. It was great to see, because during the drills part of it they were kind of tentative, but really wanted to get out there, and we got them a match and they loved it.”
Forehand sees 7s tournaments as a good way to introduce inquiring rookies to the sport of rugby. “I think it’s the perfect opportunity to sort of see (rugby) without a lot of pressure on them,” he said. “Even with the boys, the 7s format is kind of the perfect introduction. If you introduce a kid to a 60-minute match and they don’t know what they’re doing and they just get beat up for 60 minutes, you don’t accomplish much.”
Forehand admits he spent a little time Saturday scouting some potential future Sooners, but says the clinic/tournament format is a great way to help everybody.
“It’s a good opportunity for us. Not only do we get to see athletes in the area, and they get to see OU, but we get to grow the game a little bit. I’d love to grow the girl’s bracket more, also. I think that’s a huge potential that’s just waiting,” he said.
“It gave me a lot of hope, just thinking the event up and wanting to focus on the kids, and everybody left saying ‘We’re ready to do this next year, tell us when you’re going to do it.’ I think if we give them two or three month’s notice, it’ll be huge.”