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The New Jersey State Based Rugby Organization (NJSBRO) is backing the expansion and perpetuation of youth rugby through American Flag Rugby (AFR). The NJSBRO aims to serve as the umbrella organization that will oversee the development and growth of all youth AFR programs in the state.
AFR will enter its 16th season of existence since its inception during the summer of 1999. It all started with 25 kids in Denville, NJ and grew into a massive success that fields roughly 1000 youth players each summer.
“American Flag Rugby’s success has been attributed to the fact that it is a one stop-shop for the introduction of non-contact rugby to kids and parents,” says NJSBRO Youth Development Officer Craig Chapman. “We have created four different age levels and refined the laws to accomadate boys and girls of all ages and skill level."
AFR echoes the Rugby 7s format with 7 players per side; however, it is a co-ed, non-contact format designed to introduce kids to rugby in a safe, controlled environment.
The season began with practices the week of June 15th, with the first matches being held on June 21st. Every Saturday several towns host the weekly round-robin tournament where three or four programs join them, giving all players at least three matches each week. The season culminates with both Morris and Union hosting their Annual Youth Flag Rugby Festival on July 26th. This formerly combined festival held the Guinness World Record for the Largest Non-Contact Rugby Festival with 95 teams and 832 players in attendance in 2010.
This year Morris’ tournament will be held at Black River’s home pitch in Chester, New Jersey, while Union will host their tournament at Green Field on Madison Avenue in Rahway.
Morris Rugby was the corporation that supported the growth throughout Morris County that eventually spread into Union County. Union Rugby brought more towns into AFR and now oversees the Union County programs. There are currently nine towns in Morris County bolstering youth programs, while Union County sustains four. Volunteers who aspire to help grow the game of rugby support the entire structure of AFR. Current Morris County towns supporting programs include Denville, Ridgewood, Black River, Byram, Montville, Long Valley, Morristown, Parsippany, and Tri-Town. Current Union County towns with programs are Berkeley Heights, Westfield, Cranford, and Rahway. Starting next season, AFR, now under the direction of the NJSBRO, expects to continue its expansion into other parts of New Jersey. Newark, Bayonne, Weehawken, Bridgewater, and Maplewood are all projected to start programs as early as 2015. Furthermore, extension into South Jersey is on the horizon with new programs set to start up in Gloucester County.
With the new partnership with between the NJSBRO and AFR, there are great opportunities in the future for rugby in New Jersey.
“After 15 years of assisting in the growth of youth rugby I now see the next great phase of introducing rugby to kids,” says Chapman. “I am excited about taking youth rugby in the state of New Jersey to a whole new level.”
Rugby New Jersey is always looking for volunteers to help grow the game. If anyone is interested please contact Craig Chapman at [email protected].