FOND DU LAC (NBC 26) — A coed rugby team in Fond du Lac recently won the Wisconsin Youth Rugby’s 2022 “Youth Program of the Year” award for its performance, participation, and commitment to inclusion. The award is just one reason the program is important to the community. Players like 9-year-old Samantha Abitz say the program inspires confidence.
“I definitely became a lot more faster and stronger,” Abitz said. “And I definitely got more confident of not giving up on a game.”
The tag rugby program allows boys and girls to play on the same team.
“I think the coed rugby program is special because it puts girls and boys together,” coach Ishamon Harris III said. “And girls can get a lot of confidence from playing against boys and a lot of times, beating boys.”
Harris said middle school, both the boys and girls are of similar speed and athletic ability.
“They learn really, really fast that they need each other and that it's fine for a girl to pass to a boy, boy to a girl,” coach Benjamin Blanc said.
Coaches say one of the team's focuses is inclusivity.
“The last four or five years, we saw a big increase in social diversity in our program, thanks to the Boys and Girls Club and also partners for that recreation department and the YMCA,” Blanc said. “We are also providing scholarships for kids who cannot afford the program.”
Kids with scholarships don’t have to pay at all for the program, and all other kids only pay $35.
The team said the “Youth Program of the Year” is evidence of their hard work.
“This award means a lot to me and the team, because it just means we did it,” player Lucas Watson said. “And we've been playing. We've been winning. ..we've been having fun.”
Looking to the future, the team hopes to keep introducing more children to rugby.
“For me, really it's not about the award, so much is it's just being here in the sport itself,” Harris said.