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'Rookie Rugby' aimed at kids

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 25. 2018 10:57PM

Brigit Ryan-Souza has been a rugby player since her college days at Sacred Heart University, which was her first chance to learn and participate in the sport. By helping create and run Amoskeag Rugby Football Club’s rookie rugby sessions, she is looking to provide that opportunity to those interested in the sport before they reach middle school.

Ryan-Souza, her husband, Scott Souza, and Chris Grover, who are all Amoskeag players, will teach the club’s second rookie rugby session that begins on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Thibeault Field in Manchester and will run for six weeks. The instructional session is open to boys and girls ages 5-10. Parents are also welcome to join in the sessions.

Neither parents nor children need to have any experience playing the sport to participate.

The session’s costs consist of a $6.50 USA Rugby registration fee and a $35 Amoskeag Rugby Football Club registration fee.

Rookie rugby is a non-contact, simplified version of rugby that teaches children the basics of the sport.

The Manchester-based Amoskeag Rugby Football Club features four programs: men, women, over-35 and youth, which consists of high school-aged boys. The men and women’s teams compete in Division II of the New England Rugby Football Union. Ryan-Souza, who is from Syracuse, N.Y., and now lives in Manchester, serves on the club’s executive board as secretary and helped create the women’s program 10 years ago.

“It’s great to get kids exposed to it at an earlier age and it’s an additional sport out there to give kids an option of another sport to choose from,” Ryan-Souza said.

The idea to create the rookie rugby session began when Ryan-Souza and Souza’s eldest daughter wanted to learn how to play the sport.

“We’ve both felt the rugby community has become family and we have three young daughters, who all enjoy watching rugby and being part of the rugby club,” Ryan-Souza said. “Our oldest is 5 (years old) and expressed interest in learning more about it and playing. ... We were talking with another club member, who has two sons, and said, ‘Hey, let’s give this a shot.’” Ryan-Souza reached out to USA Rugby, which provided Amoskeag with a “league-in-a-bag” kit that featured items like youth rugby balls, pinnies and examples of drills that can be used to teach certain skills.

The club held its first rookie rugby session last spring, teaching the sport to 16 children. The upcoming session had about 15-20 registered players as of Tuesday afternoon. Amoskeag will hold another rookie rugby session next spring, Ryan-Souza said.

Ryan-Souza said the first session featured a mix of families that were brand new to the sport and those in which one or both parents played in college.

“One family, the father had played before but hadn’t played in years. (He) came to practice with his son,” Ryan-Souza said. “The father ended up playing for our Old Boys club, which is our Over-35 club.

“The club is like a family so it’s great to see different ages be involved and to expose different people at different ages to the sport.”

Those interested in more information regarding the club’s rookie rugby session can email