To have a successful adult program, any sport has to have a vibrant kids program and in the Cayman Islands, and rugby has been doing that for almost two decades.
Though its program was decimated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, it has nevertheless bounced back through the commitment and sheer persistence of Cayman’s rugby president Derek Haines and its rugby director Richard “Grizz” Adams.
The strategy has paid off handsomely, with the national senior side qualifying for the Hong Kong Sevens in April 2016.
Only the world’s top teams qualify for this huge tournament and for tiny Cayman to do so is a testament to how much it is punching above its weight.
The Hong Kong Sevens kicked off with 12 teams in front of only 3,000 people at the Hong Kong Football Club in 1976. The 2016 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens has grown into a three-day extravaganza of international rugby revelry, with 28 teams playing in front of a total of 120,000 spectators.
Mindful that successive generations are essential to maintain standards, the national team is holding a free clinic at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Dec. 12. It runs from 8-11 a.m. and is for kids 4-15 years of age.
Kids will get to interact with the national sevens squad as well as watch them play exhibition matches.
The schedule is for three 45-minute blocks followed by an inter-squad exhibition match between the national side at the end of every block.
Player Robbie Cribb Jr. is helping to organize the event. “We want to invite members of the public, including the government and Olympic Committee, to come out and watch the exhibition matches to see the progress that we have made,” he said.
“We want the people of Cayman to be a part of this experience as much as possible. We don’t want to let them down.”
Although months away, Cribb says that preparations for the Hong Kong Sevens is going well, as they are training three times a week and in the gym up to four times weekly.
They have just finished a skills block where they focused on breaking bad habits and building good ones and they are now onto their technical block, focusing on strategy and game situations while improving their conditioning.
“Everyone on the squad is excited about this opportunity and we all know that there are only 12 spots available on the squad, making it highly competitive during training,” said Cribb.
“We have made a goal for ourselves to win 75 percent of our matches while in Hong Kong, which is well above what any other team in the Caribbean has accomplished at this tournament, but we believe we have the right players, coaches and resources to attain this goal.”
The 25-year-old accountant at Deloitte mainly plays fly-half for the sevens squad and also plays center. Everyone is expected to know how to play everyone else’s position on the pitch.
Nobody is guaranteed a squad place, making all training sessions highly competitive. “At the moment, the coaches have made it very clear that no one has a secured spot on the team and that they will take the absolute best players when the time comes,” Cribb said.
He is competing for a place with Abdull Patterson, Cueme Parker, Mark Soto, Dow Travers, Keswick Wright, Jonathan Murphy, Paul Westin, James MacFee, Jeff Robinson, Darien Montague, Joel Clark, Cameron Bridgemen, Josh Clark, Kevin Weber, Shakur Welcome, Alex Loq, Mike Wilson, Kramer Bell, Chris Bunce, Mark Westin, Edward Westin, Taylor Wight, Shane Westin, Chris Palmer, Justin Wight, Venasio Tokatokavanua, Joseph Westin and Josh Brown.