We’re pleased to have guest contribtor, Kip O’Rourke Brown, share insight into the Junior Sports Leadership Academy as they kick off their Fall programming!

As the 2014 school year is just 8-weeks old this autumn, I wanted to take an opportunity to recognize the launch of our Junior Sports Leadership Academies (JSLA) at PS75 Emily Dickinson School and PS208 Alain L. Locke Magnet School for Environmental Stewardship. The JSLA is a community where all ruggers have an opportunity to ‘Learn to Go Forward’. To learn to go forward, there must be a positive and pro-social environment jointly created between Youth Development Mentors (YDMs) and young people.


The 75 young people enrolled in our JSLA are the heart of the community we aspire to grow. Just as the heart inside each one of us pumps blood to bring the body to life, each community members heart radiates out to form a healthy and positive community.

I’d like to stick with this metaphor of youth coming together and serving as the heart of our community.  With this in mind, I’d like to propose the question, what makes a healthy heart and healthy community? I propose a simple answer.  A healthy heart exercises itself in two ways, physically and emotionally. Here is how the JSLA promotes physically and emotionally healthy hearts.

  • Emotional Health

    In the JSLA we maintain the emotional health of the heart by practicing being a good teammate and community member. By speaking up for doing the right thing, by being willing to learn new skills in debate, in rugby or in yoga. The healthy actions and decisions the young people practice provide positive energy for the JSLA community and their surrounding school community, but also for any communities they are currently involved in and will be involved in the future. The JSLA design has three areas that contribute to a healthy community where young people can learn to Go Forward.

    1. An opportunity to go where they’re CELEBRATED
    2. An opportunity to find their PASSION
    3. An opportunity to practice HUMILITY

    In the first week of program, one of the beginning activities our ruggers participated in was a Pair and Play Activity. Each rugger was paired with a partner. However, the partners didn’t play in the game together, but took turns supporting one another from the sideline. In this scenario all ruggers got to experience just what it is like to be ‘celebrated’, the ruggers experience in this activity was awesome. Don’t take our word for it; this is what some of the ruggers had to say about it afterwards when reflecting in their journals. These comments are representative of the mood of the vast majority of ruggers after the activity.

    • “it felt good when my teammate was telling me I was doing good” (student from PS 75)
    • “When my partner gave me feedback I thought he was really caring and watching”  (student from ps 208)
  • Physical Health

    The JSLA exposes young people to many physical activities that promote physical health of the heart by team-running, team-jogging, practicing yoga, playing rugby, playing cricket and many other physical activities.  We can all think of the many ways we keep our heart in physically good condition. The physical conditioning within the JSLA is dependent on three components, which our Youth Development Mentors promote for young people

    1. Playing games for understanding
    2. Having Fun
    3. Making Mistakes

    These components guide the physical activity sessions and allow the YDMs in the JSLA to keep the ruggers active and have delivered (as of November 1st):

    • 33 session days since the JSLA program launched
    • 47 activities per week
    • 29 of 47 (62%) of activities per week are focused on physical activity
    • 9 rugby sessions
    • 8 dance sessions
    • 7 yoga sessions
    • 5 fun and fitness sessions
    • 3 PRUSA Flag Rugby Tournaments

The JSLA will put their full effort toward creating a positive community and displaying all the lessons learned throughout the first Trymester at Play Rugby USA’s 4th Annual Harlem Rugby Cup. The theme of the Harlem Rugby Cup for 2014 is Health and Wellness and Community and Contribution. Come out and see the JSLA in action!

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