Pelham elementary rugby team emerges from winter hibernation to play at Harlem Rugby Cup

gNine Pelham players and their parents ventured out into the cold and ice on Super Bowl Sunday to represent the Pelham Rugby Club at the 2013 Harlem Rugby Cup. This second annual event, sponsored by Play Rugby USA and hosted by the Harlem Children’s Zone, was held at the Harlem Armory’s indoor facilities. The well-organized tournament featured teams from P.S. 20, P.S. 75, P.S. 133, P.S. 208-A.L.L.M.S.E.S., the Pelham Rugby Club and the Boys & Girls Republic.

For the young Pelham team, it was a day of firsts. Their first time competing at the Harlem Rugby Cup. Their first time playing on an indoor field. The first time they had come together since their successful 2012 season concluded in the fall. Watching them play on the field, though, you’d never know it.

Pelham players Charlie, Ella, Gaby, G, Grant, Gregory, Justin, Max and Nicholas played great rugby throughout the afternoon. Even though several months had passed since the Pelham players last practiced or were assembled as a team for a game, they seemed to fall right back into their rugby training–passing the ball on offense and forming “brick walls” on defense. They were coached by Toby L’Estrange, who plays for the U.S. National Rugby Team. Pelham made very few technical errors and managed to limit turnovers to their fewest yet. There were some additions to the core team as well–siblings, a neighbor’s curious child and a visiting best friend –who played alongside the regulars. It was great to see how quickly the “new players” picked things up. We hope to see some of them signed-up for the spring season.

Despite the Pelham team’s best efforts–and they truly put forth their best efforts throughout the afternoon–they did not advance to the final tournament matches. Still, a great day of rugby for them, their parents and the Pelham Rugby Club.

As are our values and is our tradition, every player played every game. So even though the games were structured as six per side, we continually rotated children onto and off the field, ensuring everyone–even our new players–had plenty of time on the field and that all of them contributed to our success.

For this year’s Harlem Rugby Cup, Play Rugby USA introduced their new “Go Forward Award,” which recognizes young players who exemplify the 4 A’s of achievement: Athleticism, attendance, attitude and academics. A member of each competing team was nominated to be their team’s recipient of the award. Grant Roll was the award recipient for the Pelham Rugby Club team.

P.S. 208 and West Side presented wonderful dance performances as an intermission between the regular games and the final tournament matches.

Of special note is something that perhaps went unnoticed by most who attended the tournament–a sense of community built around the sport, field, players and games. PlayRugbyUSA–committed to “Developing Youth through Rugby”–has begun to focus on the “culture” at games. This came up in conversation with one of Play Rugby USA’s directors, when the great positive energy at the Harlem Armory was noted. The parents and coaches of opposing teams were cheering and applauding each time Pelham players scored. Please look for this energy at future rugby games and contribute to it.

Looking forward to seeing all of you again in the Spring!