When Southern Pines Youth Rugby began, they had only four players. Three years later, the club boasts around 30 athletes — a number they hope to increase in their forthcoming seasons.
There are no stadium lights that shine for the Southern Pines Youth Rugby teams. There are no cheerleaders, no announcers and no student section. When players gear up for each game and each season, they do so for the love of the game — not for the glory that comes with being an athlete.
“Rugby is the second most popular sport in the world,” said head coach and program director Joe Hogan. “It just hasn’t really gained as much popularity in the states.”
Southern Pines Youth Rugby offers both high school “15s” and middle school “7s” teams. The teams mostly compete against other club rugby teams across the state.
The high school team, The Jokers, is in the heart of their winter season, playing most matches on weekends. The Jokers played their most recent match against Corinth-Holders High School last Saturday.
Southern Pines Youth Rugby is open to students from all area schools. The teams practice twice a week and welcome newcomers throughout the season. No experience is necessary — all Hogan and his coaching staff ask is that athletes show up ready to give the sport a shot.
“Most kids will give it a week and they’re hooked,” Hogan said. “For 98 percent of our kids, their first time picking up a rugby ball is at their first practice.”
The Jokers and the middle school team, The Jesters, compete as a part of the North Carolina Youth Rugby Union. Each spring, the teams travel to the largest rugby tournament in the state, North Carolina Ruggerfest.
A longtime rugby player, Hogan actually founded the Southern Pines Youth Rugby club as a sophomore at Pinecrest High School in 2003. He was tapped to revive the club after moving back to the area.
“Growing this program has been a lot of fun, a lot of work and a lot of recruiting,” Hogan said. “We won our fall league this past year, and it was just awesome to see their smiles when they held that trophy.”
Because of the minimal equipment needed for the game, the cost to play is low. It’s just $100 for the winter and spring and $75 for one season.
Weather permitting, Southern Pines Youth Rugby practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on the Memorial Park fields. This week, they’re gearing up for another match on Saturday at Pinecrest.
The program is also hosting a free middle school rugby clinic Feb. 2 at Memorial Park. Check out Southern Pines Youth Rugby on Facebook to learn more.
For more information on how to get involved with Southern Pines Youth Rugby, contact Joe Hogan by phone or email at (910) 639-2199 and email@example.com.