Play Rugby USA (PRUSA) is a non-profit organization with a mission of ‘Developing Youth Through Rugby’ in the United States of America. Working primarily in underserved, urban communities they use flag and tackle rugby to teach positive life skills to over 10,000 young boys and girls throughout the year in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. Play Rugby USA was founded by former USA Rugby 15s Eagle, Mark Griffin, in 2003.
Dallen Stanford, a former USA Rugby 7s Eagle who hails from Cape Town – South Africa, had been the PRUSA Los Angeles Program Director since 2011. The Los Angeles program has seen tremendous growth in recent years, beginning with 190 students in 2009 and now currently serving over 3,000 boys and girls from 135 elementary, middle and high schools.
Play Rugby USA programs promote a positive Go Forward Culture – which combines rugby, community, health education and encourages young students to embrace challenges and stay committed to success. This positive environment, as well as the vital connections made with caring Youth Development Mentors, enables young students to learn and grow.
Hebron Community Projects founder, Neil Hall, attended Rondebosch Boys’ High School with Dallen. Hebron Community Projects (HCP) is a non-profit organisation and a catalyst for positive change in South Africa society. HCP’s projects have been developed specifically to give struggling youth and the Community of Citrusdal the opportunity to reclaim some of what has been lost in their lives. HCP resides on Philadelphia Farm in Citrusdal, Western Cape, South Africa, a working farm also run by Neil Hall. Uplifting the community and encouraging transformational development remain the key elements to the vision at HCP. The focus is to provide programs and facilities that will allow for qualified personnel to counsel, teach, train, disciple and provide a safe haven for the community of Citrusdal. To support these efforts, HCP has developed a Life Center (community center) and sports pitch. It was a natural fit to bring the successful Play Rugby USA flag program to Citrusdal as another fun outdoor activity option for the community.
On 12 January 2017, fourteen staff members from various local farms in Citrusdal met at the Hebron Community Projects Life Center for an exciting rugby-filled workshop. The staff training consisted of an indoor theory session explaining the need and benefits of positive role models, active lifestyles for youth, rugby’s values, and how to establish vital connections through sport.
“Sport speaks to youth in a language that they can understand. It has the ability to change the world” – Nelson Mandela.
The practical portion of the training then took place both indoors and outside on the large beautiful grass field. Through the use of several modified flag rugby type games, the staff members were soon having the time of their lives – laughing, encouraging each other, being competitive, and smiling from ear to ear.
Once outside on the grass field, the staff tapped into a reserve pool of energy running 100 miles per hour, some hoping for a late call-up to the Springboks! Each staff member was shown several non-contact rugby games that could be used for students aged 7 years and upwards. PRUSA donated flag rugby equipment that consisted of flag belts, flags, cones and size 4 rugby balls – which are specifically used for young students.
The goal of the workshop on Day 1 was to equip each staff member with the skill set to deliver about 10 fun flag rugby style games – so that they could manage a group of about 20 young boys and girls.
On 13 January 2017, the trained fourteen staff members met again at the Hebron Community Projects Life Center to test out this new program with active students. The local community was informed about the rugby program and surprised everyone by arriving with over 250 boys and girls! This was the largest single gathering of students at the Life Center!
Ten small mini-rugby fields were setup outside with 25 students assigned to each field. The trained staff from the community sprung into action and in a matter of minutes hundreds of smiling faces could be seen across all fields. Despite the scorching son, the students were laughing and loving the various fun games, running around for almost 2 hours.
“It was amazing to see so many young boys and girls having such a wonderful time playing flag rugby. We expected about 50 students, and when we saw 250, we knew this program was going to be vital for the community” – beamed Play Rugby USA’s Dallen Stanford.
The rugby equipment will stay on-site at the Hebron Community Projects Life Center for use during the upcoming rugby practices, with a tournament planned for later this year.
The most asked question after the magical day: “When are we doing rugby again?”…
“It would be an honor to come back to Hebron to assist in the community flag rugby tournament – and to see how rugby’s values have impacted these young sensations” – said Dallen.