Over the past 10 years, the global rugby community has quickly responded to one of the fastest growing tenets of the game: player welfare and safety. In San Diego, where youth rugby is governed by Southern California Youth Rugby (SCYR), youth players will benefit from a two-year SCYR investigation and analysis committee to explore new age and weight guidelines. As the new rugby season starts in December, SCYR has recently announced new player welfare and safety rules with the intention of increasing individual player development and skill growth.
San Diego “Mustangs” Youth Rugby, a local youth rugby team, has been an active member of SCYR and has been an active representative on the Southern California player welfare committee whose safety recommendations will come into affect this season. After a multi-year evaluation of youth rugby safety in concert with its member clubs, SCYR has adopted age/weight parameters for players in the U10, U12, and U14 age groups for the upcoming 2019-2020 season.
U10 players now have a maximum weight cap of 120 pounds, while U12 players will be capped at 145 pounds. Players above those weight limits will play-up one division. The U14 age group will feature players entered in one of two divisions: “Light Division” which has a 180 pound player cap and the “Open Division” which has no weight limit. Overall, these new parameters will align players within similar weight ranges without straining too far away from the traditional age group structure.
In addition to the new age and weight parameters, SCYR is moving the U8 division from Touch Rugby to Flag Rugby, ensuring U8 rugby is truly a non-contact division for the youngest rugby age-grade. It will also aid in the eventual transition to proper rugby tackle technique at the older age groups by having players focus on targeting an opponent’s hips and lower body in a tackle versus the shoulders.
Successful testing of newer age/weight classifications and flag rugby in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa have shown the new parameters effective in providing evenly matched environments in which players are better able to grow their skills and develop proper tackling and rucking technique. Experience against players of similar size has shown to make players more willing to learn proper tackling techniques and how they can safely and effectively play in contact areas.
David Pool, president of SCYR, commented “the age and weight rules are another key step to enhance safety for our youth athletes playing the game. The new weight rules combined with our nationally-recognized program of having a certified athletic trainer at every game and refereeing safe tackle technique are all examples of our ‘Kids First’ approach to the youth rugby game in Southern California.”
All SCYR teams will take part in the first annual Weigh-In Day on Saturday, Dec. 14, in various locations across Southern California, and players will not be required to re-weigh until the beginning of the 2020-2021 season.
“We are grateful to SCYR and the thoughtful approach they took to creating weight guidelines for youth rugby,” stated San Diego Mustangs President Joe Curtis. “The new guidelines will enhance safety while still making sure everyone has a chance to play this amazing game, which is growing faster than ever.”
The San Diego Mustangs will kick off the U8-U14 season with practices starting in early December and games beginning in January. The club will host a free Rugby Clinic open to interested boys and girls, ages 5-14, on Sunday, Nov. 3 from 10 a.m. to noon at Ocean Air Recreation Center in Carmel Valley. For more information about the clinic, or to register for the 2019-2020 season, visit sandiegoyouthrugby.org.
— News release