The bottom line reason for Flag Rugby’s success is that it’s fun. “The kids just love it,” says Tom Feury (Coordinator, Denville Dawgs, Morris Youth Rugby) of the enthusiasm for the sport. Unlike some sports in which kids participate, American Flag Rugby gets every child actively involved with the game and this is wildly attractive to kids who previously spent long days in an outfield or goal box. Everyone touches the ball in rugby and everyone can score points. “Our brand of rugby is highly inclusive,” says Mike Stumpf, (Referee Coordinator and Laws Committee Chair of Morris Youth Rugby), “kids of many ages can play together and include different athletic abilities and genders.”
Parents also appreciate the game because they can have all of their children participating in one location at the same time. They also appreciate the low commitment level and flexibility with missed practice time due to vacation or other sports. Stumpf says the attitude of Morris is “Show and play when you can,” leaving families the opportunity to keep their kids active in the summer but not have to miss out on other things.
Long Valley parent Ken Ray was in town for just a few days when a neighbor gave him a flyer to send his daughter to play rugby. Ray was immediately impressed with the rugby culture. “All of a sudden she had this team around her!” says Ray. Through youth rugby, his daughter was “gaining camaraderie, which was very important to her those first few months of being in the community.” Six months later, Katherine is still wearing her rugby jersey everywhere and claims moving to New Jersey was the best thing to happen in her life.
Stumpf comments that Morris has demonstrated with flag rugby something that has not been seen anywhere and gotten entire families involved. The parents see how positively it affects the kids and get involved in the entire corporation. “We are not just creating rugby players, we are creating people involved with and promoting rugby just because they see the value in the sport. Parents help to promote the game because they see how healthy it is for their families.” Feury is also quick to emphasize that American Flag Rugby is a family and community oriented activity adding the phrase “It’s a social thing!” to most correspondence with players and parents.
A final reason the program has seen so much success is that Morris sets up a clear path for lifelong rugby development. Kids can move up through High School, play rugby in college, then return to Morris to play for the senior clubs. “This youth activity teaches the ideal that athletic activity can and should be a lifetime resolve.” (Stumpf says) ¹
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