Friday, July 25, 2014

The Youth Is Rising In New York

Press Release

In the city of New York rugby has been growing fast. The opportunity for high school athletes to receive collegiate scholarships was just highlighted this May in the New York Times. Rugby in NYC is growing and there are a number of contributing factors, organizations and people paving the way.  There have been a number of athletes off to college rugby through the likes of Play Rugby USA Senior Academy and New York Rugby Club U19 programs. Several of these players that have participated in these youth programs now entering the women’s club pathway.

Play Rugby USA main focus is giving kids life skills, developing healthy habits and teaching kids to make choices that will help in their life. Their pathway has been building though, while still primarily focused on youth in schools throughout NYC and other cities. The pathway to the women’s club level and beyond has grown rapidly the past few years. Now having a Junior Academy program with top middle school players in the area, leading into a high school U19  Play Rugby USA Senior academy. And now these girls are going to college and coming back and continuing to play in the NYC area.

Take the jump to read more.

The club teams are starting to see a difference with more and more recent high school graduates and college players joining clubs in the NYC area. One of the clubs paving the way in immersing collegiate aged women into the 7’s club scene is Old Blue Women’s RFC.

In the clubs first year their coaching staff of Billy Nicholas and Gary Heavner wanted to make sure that one of the goals of the team was an emphasis of providing opportunities for elite level play and practice for up and coming players at the high school graduate, collegiate and recent college graduates.  “It has been an amazing experience, the team has excellent veteran experience no doubt but with the core of the team being made up of young women and facing teams with more experience and years on them…. they are sticking it to them, growing and winning,” said coach Billy Nicholas.  “It is a testament to their dedication, their hunger to improve and their passion for the game, we have a great group of women here.”

When asked a few younger players from the NYC area playing with Old Blue who have recenetly been invited to attend high performance camps or National teams:

“I have noticed over the past few years that women’s rugby is growing in the NYC area. In my eyes rugby has changed the mentality of many young girls. It has encouraged us to strive for bigger and better things and opened doors outside of just the NYC area,” Shamira Robles, Old Blue Women’s player from the Bronx headed to American International College this Fall.

Gioanna Cruz, Bronx, AIC sophomore, who has recently just been selected for the Women’s Junior All-American team touring Canada this August “The age difference between our team and other teams varied but it never affected us – if you can play rugby, you can play rugby – no matter the age.”

Denisse Zambon, recent HS graduate headed to Norwich from the Bronx, about the age difference across the clubs, “Most of the girls in my team are around the ages of 18-25, however the ages of the competition in the Northeast varies a lot. There's women who are in their 20's 30's and 40’s. It has affected me in a good way, I have been playing against girls who are the same age as me. Now I have the opportunity to play against and with girls who are older than me and who have more experience. It gave me the opportunity to feel more prepared for college and future teams I might have the opportunity to play with."

Corinne Heavner, who recently was a part of the Penn State women’s 7s team who won the CRC’s has been working hard with Old Blue this summer was asked about her take on the comparison on Old Blue’s focus on youth versus other clubs:

“They all are older and with age comes experience so at first I'm usually intimidated but I use the intimidation as fuel to my fire. I feel like an underdog and it makes me want to hit harder, run faster and think smarter. I want to show the other teams that we are a strong rugby team and not just 'young." Playing rugby with Old Blue has been a great experience. It not only has been fun meeting almost 30 new girls and making great friends but its been challenging as well. We all come from different teams and different backgrounds but we practiced hard and found a way to work together like we've been playing together for years.

To sum it up Coach Billy added “We are not just a team for the now, we are taking steps to create a team for the now and the future."

There is a group of young women from the NYC area playing college rugby this Fall and with Old Blue Women’s RFC 7’s this summer, be on the look out for the following girls at their respective college programs listed below in the Fall:

Corinne Heavner, 18, Penn State University, So.  Ponoma NY
Denisse Zambon, 18, Norwich University, Fr. Bronx NY
Alexandrea Hawkins, 18, Norwich University, Fr. Harlem, NY
Amber Chandu, 18, American International College, Fr. Queens, NY
Gioanna Cruz, 19,  American International College, So.  Bronx NY
Shamira Robles, 19, American International College, Fr. Bronx NY
Zoe Schmitt, 19, University of Virginia,  Larchmont NY
Rosalind Pena, 19, Central Washington University, So. Bronx NY
Jacky Reyes, 19,  Ithaca College,  Queens NY
Amy Verdonik, 20, University of Scranton, NJ
Domonique Cammok, 21, American International College, So, Bronx NY
Nikki Heuer, 21, Stony Brook University, Westchester NY
Joan Terrado, 18, Queens NY              
Rosemary Cruz, 22, Bronx NY    
Miosotic Calcano, 20, Bronx NY        
Brianna Danner, 18, Bronx NY

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