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Youth rugby coaches the backbone of program's success

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The Parkland Pirates youth rugby program continues to grow in the Parkland.
About 75 players have enrolled in the fall program, according to program co-ordinator Gerald Lopez.
“From the springtime to the falltime, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” he said.
Lopez attributes the growth of the program to the positive culture of the sport.
“Starting from the positive culture of the high school programs filtering all the way down to the youth program, we have kids aged from four to 13. And from our first year to our second year, we have kids that are having such a positive experience.”
Lopez attributes that positive experience to the program’s coaches, Aaron Miner, Errol Karlson, Becky McGregor, Mark Symchych, Ann Ransom and Keith Tkachyk.
“I’m very lucky to have these great positive role-model coaches that are providing this environment that give these kids a great experience. And I believe a positive experience builds from there,” he said.
Dauphin will host the ManSask Rugby 7s Regionals in October. Events such as this gives the young players an idea of the opportunities available in the sport.
“What we’re seeing now is, a lot of these kids that have been playing now for two or three years, they’re starting to really develop talent-wise. Now they’re starting to filter into these high performance programs that Rugby Manitoba is offering,” Lopez said.
“Now, locally, they’ll be able to see where they can go with their rugby.”
The program runs every Monday and Wednesday at the Kin Field at the Vermillion Park Sportsplex. Players ages four-to-nine are on the pitch at 6 p.m. and play non-contact flag rugby. Players ages 10-to-13 begin their intro to contact tackle practices at 7 p.m.
Overall, Lopez is pleased with the success of the youth program, especially after the demise of the Dauphin Mavericks men’s team years ago.
“I still can’t believe the success rugby has grown in the Parkland region. And it’s continuing to grow. It’s fantastic,” he said.
“I can never thank enough my coaches. These wonderful ex-Mavericks that are making this all happening.”
The program is always looking for players, Lopez said, noting they are getting players who have never played any sport before, as well as athletes from other sports.
And the program is not only open to players from Dauphin.
“It’s open to all of the kids in the Parkland. We have kids from Winnipegosis, McCreary, Gilbert Plains and Ste. Rose,” he said.
Players will get a chance to put their skills to the test at four jamborees, which will be held every Sunday in September.
The first is Sept. 8 in Brandon, followed by Minnedosa, Sept. 15; Souris, Sept. 22; and Dauphin, Sept. 29.
All jamborees begin at noon and run until 4 p.m.

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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