By Victoria Martinez
The Santa Ynez Valley Pirates Youth Rugby Club is inviting all local boys and girls to join the team for its upcoming fifth season.
“It’s a lot of fun,” coach Dan Freedman said.
Pre-registration and parent meetings will be held at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 9 and Dec. 4 at Oak Valley School’s field. The cost is $190 per player, though discounts are available for those who bring a friend.
Optional practices will be held Nov. 16 and 30. Mandatory practices will be held every Monday and Thursday at Oak Valley’s field starting Dec. 4, and matches are on Saturdays.
The season officially begins in January at the annual Tom Bobrink Tournament in Arroyo Grande.
Freedman, who has been coaching the team since the program began five years ago, has been involved in the sport for more than 20 years.
He was introduced to rugby in college and had the opportunity to play with a nationally ranked program at the Naval Academy. While in the Navy, Freedman moved to San Diego and played club rugby.
He continued to play after moving to Santa Barbara and transitioning to a civilian position at Vandenberg Air Force Base and a position with the Navy Reserve. After the birth of his second child seven years ago, Freedman stopped playing rugby, but stayed connected to the rugby community.
After making a casual comment about rugby in the valley while watching a match in Santa Barbara, Freedman found himself being persuaded to start up SYV Youth Rugby.
Freedman and a handful of other men started the program with fewer than 10 kids, just teaching them the basics and having no formal schedule. By the end of that summer, there had close to 20 players. Last year, the team fielded nearly 50, and Freedman would like to see 70 to 80 come out to play for the upcoming season.
Both boys and girls ages 5-18 are welcome to join the team, with divisions and activities appropriate for all ages. Itty Bitty Rugby (touch/non-contact), for example, is offered for 5- to 7-year-olds.
“If you introduce it [rugby] in a non-contact environment, people can experience it and see it in a safe, ideal situation,” Freedman said.
Freedman said the teamwork and decision-making skills he developed on the field have helped him off the field throughout his life and career. He wants rugby to be accessible to all kids so that they may benefit in the same ways.
“Any kid can step in and play,” Freedman said. “The good thing about rugby: There’s a position for every shape and size.”
The team is also seeking more coaches, and a female coach in particular. Experience with rugby is not a requirement to coach, as there are professional coaching classes and materials available to all willing volunteers.