Providing a robust rugby pathway.
The Raptors’ Academy is best defined by the wide array of programs it offers participants. An assortment of clinics, camps, leagues, and teams make up the GRRA offerings, all tailored to age and ability, and all building upon one another as players progress through the Academy.
Clinics are the backbone of instruction for sports participants, teaching fundamentals and basic game tactics. GRRA clinics focus on the four tenets of rugby: tackling, passing, kicking, and conditioning. Tackling clinics emphasize the importance of safety, instructing players on proper body mechanics, developing skill, and building confidence. Clinics for passing and kicking hone technique and develop coordination. Conditioning teaches players discipline through the use of both aerobic and anaerobic exercises. The athletes learn to push themselves, and how to properly recover through instruction on nutritional support.
Spring and Fall are important seasons for rugby, and the GRRA hosts programs during each. Participants of all ability levels, from kindergarten through 8th grade are included in practices, drills, and scrimmages. From May to June the Try League takes center stage, and youth organizations from across the metro Denver area compete during Saturday games. The arrival of the summer months means the Summer Flag League in the GRRA. With an emphasis on teamwork and sportsmanship, the four-week, non-contact, co-ed program, promises to hone the skills of players ages K-8. For the winter months the non-contact skills work is moved indoors, and players begin to prepare themselves for the activities of the coming spring.
Director of the K-8 portion of the GRRA program Jenna Anderson says the most important aspect of youth rugby is getting kids to their first practice: “Once they come, they’re hooked. Exposure through the school and community is really important, and the GRRA is committed to showing the game to students and their teachers.” Glendale’s welcoming, supportive culture is paramount to the program’s success.
High school players have plenty of opportunities in the GRRA as well. Intensive four-day camps are offered for both Girls and Boys in the age group. With USA Rugby National Team players, and Glendale Raptors Premier League players acting as coaches, participants work on high-level skills development and training. A low player to coach ratio (10:1) insures an intimate, individual focus for any player requiring additional instruction. The camps even incorporate rugby training into downtime, through the analysis of video, nutrition seminars, and training education. From September to October, the Glendale Girls High School team competes locally in games and tournaments during Rugby Colorado’s Fall season. Open to players of all skill levels, the team promises a spot on the squad for anyone interested in participating.
The forthcoming Under 20 League (U20) will offer local high school grads not competing for a university or college rugby program the opportunity to complete the pathway from youth sport to the professional or national level. Debuting in August 2016, players in the program will compete against local and regional collegiate teams. Glendale Director of Rugby and U20 Head Coach Mark Bullock says the team “fills a gap that’s been present in USA Rugby for some time — it’s one that the organization is aware of, and so we have they’re support.” Bullock also expressed the importance of guidance at this stage of the development process, noting that, “The jump from high school to adult men’s rugby is a big one physically and mentally. The U20 program is the final stage of the GRRA — this is the channel to higher-level play.”