BY GENE NARDI
Sunday, March 29 was the Wellington Wizards Rugby Club’s “Youth Rugby Extravaganza Day” at Samuel Friedland Park in The Acreage. Club teams from Miami, West Pines and Boca Raton were on hand to participate in the event.
The Wellington Wizards are a new youth rugby club in the western communities. The Wizards currently have two teams, U-12 and U-14. The club started in January and has big plans to promote the sport of rugby to the area.
“This is something we’ve been planning for a long time. This is the first time this has ever been held here, and it’s an excellent venue for our event,” club president Alan Lawson said. “We’re creating a family environment for the sport and to promote the growth of rugby in the area.”
Rugby is gaining popularity and is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. Clubs are forming throughout Florida, too, and with the sport being introduced as an Olympic sport in 2016, it is sure to expand due to the international exposure.
“It’s not just Wellington, it’s about Palm Beach County as well,” Lawson said. “We plan on drawing interest from around Palm Beach County.”
The popularity of the sport of rugby is apparent in that all the players get to be actively involved in the game, eligible to carry the ball and score points.
“This is incredible. I’ve been working on this for five years, and teamed up with Alan to bring it all together, and it has been phenomenal,” head coach Mark Patterson said.
Patterson oversees the coaching staff for both teams within the club and works with Lawson in coordinating events, training, matches and special events.
Kids from the age of 6 to high school age can participate. The club plans to introduce the sport to the local high schools in an effort to promote rugby. The Wellington Wizards U-14 team is currently ranked No. 1 in the state by USA Rugby and the Florida Rugby Union.
Currently, the club is finishing up its tournament season. The Wizards will host the Florida State Championships at the International Polo Club Palm Beach on April 25. “Rugby is a way of life and a family sport,” Patterson said.
To learn more about the Wellington Wizards Rugby Club, visit www.floridayouthrugby.com.
ABOVE: Thomas Walton of the U-14 Wizards advances the ball.