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Capitol Kick-Off

Blog February 13, 2012 SportStars 0

  By MARK CARNEY | Contributor   On Jan. 24, high school rugby programs from throughout the North State will get their competitive scrum...

  By MARK CARNEY | Contributor

  On Jan. 24, high school rugby programs from throughout the North State will get their competitive scrum on for the first time in 2015. That will be the opening day to the two-day Sacramento Kick-Off Tournament “” an event with a modest 30-year history that has taken a big leap forward over the past decade.

  The KOT was started in 1984; two years after the first high school start-up match between Del Campo-Fair Oaks and Piedmont International Touring Side (PITS) in 1982.

  Up until 2005, the KOT was a Sacramento Valley Youth Rugby Organization (SVYRO), teaching-oriented, game-scrimmage tournament. Coaches could come on the field to provide instruction on strategy, tactics, and methods of play. The event languished in the late 90s as the number of greater-skilled teams multiplied throughout the region and play moved naturally toward a more competitive setting “” which lowered the level of participation in the low-key KOT. 

  In 2005, the Try For Others Foundation, which seeks to help former rugby players who have had traumatic accidents on or off the field, sought seed money to fund itself. The KOT was used as the platform for that fundraising, and members of the Sacramento Rugby Foundation assisted in the planning and execution of the tournament. 

  Since then, the Sacramento Rugby Foundation has managed and run the tournament. The event is now utilized as a fundraiser for SVYRO with funds going towards the assistance of player dues scholarships, All-Star travel assistance and camps and clinics in the Sacramento Valley. 

  As the official beginning to the High School Season, the KOT is still utilized as a teaching tournament in the sense that for many players, this is the first live game action they will have played in. Early in the year, knowledge of the game is just developing, meaning the KOT is the breeding ground for future stars of the league, college and International players. In more recent years, with the ever-increasing popularity of the sport in college, recruiters have begun attending to scout out potential talent and providing information to athletes on the application process to their respective institutions. 

  The KOT is a fun-filled, festival-like atmosphere that the whole family can enjoy. Although the KOT is open to every NCYRA Club, not all attend. Many Clubs are not in a position with numbers to actually attend the tournament, and others opt to wait until the actual start of the league season to begin competitive matches.

  At the youth level of the sport in Northern California, the emphasis is placed on participation and the teaching of life skills and lessons rather than winning and losing. Coaches utilize the sport of rugby to teach camaraderie, sportsmanship, leadership, respect and teamwork. These values prepare young players to be successful in their own lives as well as in the sport of rugby.

  With the event serving as an opening to the new season, it makes sense to takea look at what programs appear to be formidable. 


Alex Goff of released his first national rankings of high school club teams. The Danville Oaks debuted at No. 3, the Hayward Griffins were No. 7, the Peninsula Green were No. 10 and Sierra Foothills slotted in at No. 13. All these clubs pull from multiple high schools and are ones to watch out for this year. Other talented clubs to be on the lookout for are Granite Bay, North Bay and Davis. 

  Goff also provides national rankings for single-school programs “” teams which consist of players from just one school. NorCal, state and national-powerhouse Jesuit-Carmichael begins 2015 at the top of those rankings. The Marauders will be be participating in this year’s KOT. Other single-school programs to keep a close eye on are Clayton Valley Charter-Concord and Archbishop Riordan-S.F..

  On the girls side of things, the Sacramento Amazons are perennial favorites again. However, the likes of Pleasanton and Danville are quickly closing the gap, which will surely lead to a very exciting finish to the season. 

  In the Middle School and Youth divisions, although scores and results are not kept, the likes of Land Park, Bowling Green, United Youth, Danville, Lamorinda and Pleasanton always play good rugby. There are many teams out there with tremendous potential, and the next four months should give plenty of them a chance to shine.

  Mark Carney is the executive director of the Northern California Youth Rugby Association. He writes for SportStars as part of the magazine’s partnership with the NCYRA.

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