Cayman rugby continues growth

The Cayman Rugby Union has announced its latest news and plans for the communities of the Cayman Islands. Now with over four hundred and fifty male and female playing members, two hundred and fifty national junior program playing members and more than two thousand seven hundred associated members through the HSBC in school coaching and playing programs the Union has plans to actively move out into each community to deliver rugby programs closer to the young players homes, as well as introducing a girls under 18 national and Academy program for the first time and re establishing the women’s full contact version of the game.

‘We have invested over seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars over the past six years to developing in school and community rugby programs for the youth of the island, through providing world class coaching, a world class facility and time and equipment.,’ said National Coach and Technical Director Richard Adams. ‘Today the word ‘rugby’ is not strange to any one who has been in school over the past six years, it is not considered an ‘ex pat’ sport by the thousands of youngsters who have participated, enjoyed and proven that it is a sport well suited to Caymanian values and ethics. Indeed over the past four years the Maples and Calder Academies have produced a significant number of fine players, community leaders, scholars and all round good citizens who now put back into their communities through coaching, refereeing and in general.

‘So it is only natural that the next step is to offer these hundreds of young players the chance to participate in a Rugby program close to home and where transport to and from the South Sound Ground is not required. There are some problems in that the South Sound Pitch is the only Risk Free Management pitch on the island where games can be played but we will be able to offer skill and limited contact training sessions at most fields Island wide. We aim to transport these young players to the South Sound Pitch on six occasions each season to play in six different tournaments forming the basis of a national championship. The project which is expected to cost in the region of CI$80,000 per year will be funded in part by Maples and Calder, the CI Government department of Sport and Education, The International Rugby Board and The Cayman Junior Rugby Development Fund.

This program and series of tournaments will also serve as the basis for National age grade selections for both boys and girls and indeed for selection to the Maples and Calder National Rugby Academies who are based out of the South Sound Facility and form a large part of the basis of future National teams.

The coach the union hopes to bring in from Canada is a community development specialist as well as a former Canadian National Women’s team head coach and with Canada ranked third in the world in the women’s game and there are high hopes for the development of the female programs.

The North American West Indies Rugby Association along with the International Rugby Board has decided that Cayman are eligible to compete to qualify for the women’s U19 World Cup Championships and Cayman hopes to field a team in the 2008 championships.

‘We are also very proud of the fact that we are hosting three championship’s this summer giving Caymanian qualified players the chance to compete in elite level competition right here in Cayman,’ said Adams. ‘We have the U19 World Cup Qualifiers here in July with seven International teams competing and then the Men’s and Women’s championships here in August with as many as sixteen countries competing so it will be a great opportunity not only to play and see international Rugby played but a great chance to market the Islands and a huge boost to local industries through sports tourism dollars at a traditionally slow period in the season.

‘We as an association are dedicated to the development of our youth and school programs for in so doing we will always have strong national teams at all levels, yes we are facing some problems most notably the fact that whether we like it or not there is only one Risk Management Safe pitch on the island for the playing of the sport and it is currently completely overused and full, yet on an almost daily basis we are requested to commence new programs in the schools and communities. Recently we have met with PNP the sports consultants hired by the Government and the Sports department and while there may be some relief a several years down the road the problem is only going to get worse for the foreseeable future. We are looking at our options as we would hate to have to say no to the communities, schools and players. In some ways I guess we are victims of our own success in that the program that used to invest a mere $50,000 into youth and development now exceeds $500,000 annually and we are reaping the rewards. I guess in closing, if it is possible for us to be there and offer rugby, we will do everything in our power to make it happen so keep your eyes open.’

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