Mission Bay High School has a new team sport, rugby. Actually, right now it’s a club.
“High school rugby in San Diego is rather new, but a quickly growing group,” said Lisa Mandel, MBHS rugby team manager.
“Rugby is a youth club sport in San Diego and first went into the high schools as a club sponsored by the local club teams. Now we have two different leagues Southern California Youth Rugby (SCYR) and Southern California Interscholastic Rugby Federation (SCIRF) hosting teams in more than 30 high schools in San Diego County alone and growing.”
Rugby is a collective name for the family of team sports of rugby union and rugby league, from which Australian rules football and gridiron football evolved. Canadian football, and to a lesser extent American football, were also broadly considered forms of rugby football.
Distinctive features common to both rugby codes include the oval ball. Throwing the ball forward is also not allowed so players can gain ground only by running with the ball or by kicking it. Unlike American and Canadian football, the players do not wear body protection.
Rugby football started about 1845 at Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, England although forms of football in which the ball was carried and tossed date to medieval times. Rugby football was one of many versions of football played at English public schools in the 19th century.
“My kids have been playing rugby since they were 5 years old with Aztec Youth Club rugby and we have found that, more than any sport we have done, it creates a sense of teamwork and community that is incredible,” said Mandel. “It is physical but the kids do not have pads on and are taught how to tackle low and safely. It is active. This is a game of a continuous running clock. Anyone can score. Everyone gets the ball and it is constantly moving until the end. It is fast-paced, active, and exciting.”
Added Mandel: “After each game sportsmanship is seen in each team circling up together arm and arm and picking an MVP of the opposing team. They play hard on the field and bond as kids after the game. These are the true values of the sport that we want to teach our kids.”
Mandel said they started MBHS’s rugby team last year as a new club. “We had the challenge of finding a coach, recruiting players, and fundraising for uniforms, coaches, referees, and more,” she said. “We successfully did all of this.”
MBHS’s rugby coach last year was Benjamin LeBeaupin and joining him this year is a co-coach Kawika Kekauoha.
"As a fan and former player, I want to pass on my passion for rugby, which started when I was 10 years old,” said coach LeBeaupin. “The outbreak of rugby in the USA is an incredible opportunity for the sport, played all over the world and highly followed in Europe and Oceania.
“From an educational point of view, the creation of a team at MBHS represents a logical step in the development of young students through the values conveyed by rugby: courage, respect, and discipline.”
Added LeBeaupin: “From a sporting point of view, the development of high school rugby in the USA is essential to the success of the U.S. national team, a showcase, and indicator of the health of its sport in its country. The possibility of coaching a new team allows me to put my little stone on this edifice. Rugby in the USA has the potential to become a world reference, similar to basketball, and this starts with the creation of a team like MBHS that sparks new talents, fans, and followers."
“Since rugby is not an official CIF sport yet, we are considered a club, but all of our players last year were awarded Varsity letters because of their hard work,” noted Mandel. “Although our season is unpredictable this year due to COVID, we are hoping to start practices soon and get the boys ready for season number two.”
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