Off the Streets and Onto the Rugby Pitch

Another great article from my inbox that was passed on to me by Rick of TYRA (Texas Youth Rugby Associaton) fand I thought it was very interesting, the video is quite good as well. These types of iniatives are essential for Youth Rugby and will help build our youth teams!

from ABC News:
The city of Hawaiian Gardens, east of Los Angeles, sounds like a holiday resort. But few people come here on vacation. The population, which numbers just 15,000, has been plagued by gang violence and racial tension.

Now, middle-school and high-school kids from one of the most dangerous suburbs in America are getting out of the gangs by playing a game that isn’t American at all — rugby. And they say it’s changing their lives.

“It’s an alternative to gangs,” explained Jesse Ortiz, one of the players on the team. “Most of us would be dragged into gangs or influenced. Instead of being out there on the streets like the gangs are doing, we’re here playing rugby.”

It’s a way for these kids to meet on a level playing field.

“It don’t matter what race you are,” said another teammate. “We’re just here to play.”

A third member of the team agreed. “There’s no race like black or Mexican. We’re just one color: “green, rugby.”

So what’s the allure of this full-contact sport? For one thing, getting a great hit on an opponent can be a rewarding sensation.

“It feels good,” said Antonio Gutierrez, one of the players. “It’s the best feeling ever. I let a lot of my anger out — a lot.”

It was that anger that inspired Ernie Vargas, 56, a gang prevention coordinator, to introduce them to the new sport of rugby, a precursor to football that originated in the U.K.

Vargas says gang membership in the city of Hawaiian Gardens starts early and is widespread. “You might have a neighbor. You might even have a brother, sister, cousin or relative” that is part of a gang, he said. “Some even maybe have parents or a step-father, mother, somebody that used to be involved in it.”

What does life in a gang membership look like for these young people?

“It means you’re going to back up your neighborhood,” Vargas explained. “If I’m with three or four guys and we run into some other guys from another neighborhood, we’re all committed to back each other up and fight. They could possibly be willing to be in a situation where they could die for it.”

Click here for the rest of this article.

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