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Sacramento Area Set For Massive Rugby Tournament What started back in 1983 as a humble preseason scrimmage between seven fledgling Sacramento Valley high school... Bigger and Bigger

Sacramento Area Set For Massive Rugby Tournament

What started back in 1983 as a humble preseason scrimmage between seven fledgling Sacramento Valley high school rugby clubs, has developed into the largest youth and high school rugby tournament in the Western Hemisphere (at least as far as we can tell).

In fact, the Kick-Off Tournament has been so for nearly 10 years now.

The 34th annual KOT (as it has been affectionately nicknamed) will be held for the sixth consecutive year at Cordova High on Jan. 27-28. With at least nine different competitive levels, the event will once again fea- ture as many as 130 sides competing in over 200 matches. Full contact. No pads. Catching, passing, kicking, tackling, scrummaging, rucking and mauling!

This year, the tournament is expecting schools such as multiple time national champion Jesuit-Carmichael to enter as many as four sides to compete at different levels. Single clubs like Sierra Foothills (Roseville/Rock- lin), Granite Bay, Mother Lode (El Dorado Hills), Solo (Solano/Yolo), Lamorinda, Pleasanton and Danville are all likely to be present as well.

The format will feature boy and girls divisions at U-10, U-12 and middle school, as well as JV and varsity. Many of these larger clubs enter as many as 12 sides. Smaller clubs like Chico, Gridley, Elk Grove and Marin enter closer to six sides. The competition is dynamic; changing and growing every year. We expect several visiting clubs from the Seattle and Los Angeles areas, as well from across Northern California.

The KOT has become the legitimate harbinger of a new Northern California youth and high school rugby seasons to come. The winner of the boys Varsity Gold competition, held on Saturday, is often found still standing at the high school national championship final each May. The KOT has proven to be an outstand- ing structure in our reoccurring Rugby NorCal calendar, one that challenges with the outstanding opportunity for club, squad, coach, administration and even referee development. We like to call it Game Development.

The opportunity to compete at the KOT has allowed KOT organizers to set the bar a little higher with each passing year. In fact, an argument could be made that the high level of professional volunteerism on display at the KOT helped create Rugby NorCal, the leading state-based rugby organization in USA Rugby.

Competition starts early on both Saturday and Sunday, with kickoffs usually starting at 9 a.m., possibly earlier. Play continues until sunset both days. A precursor to the event is a free rugby referee clinic at Sacramento State on Friday, Jan. 26. Coach and referee certification courses are offered throughout the region each fall and into January.

Rugby (or rugby union football as it is more accurately called) just recently returned to the Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro 2016. Gold Medals from the 1920 and 1924 Olympics are on display at the UC Davis Shields Library. Colby “Babe” Slater of Woodland captained the 1924 team that beat France, in Paris, for the Gold. USA men and women both turned in credible performances in Rio, and will certainly be competing for med- als in the years ahead. Come out to Cordova High at the end of January and enjoy the competition.

Each side entered plays three 30-minute matches per day. Rugby is exhausting and exhilarating, but most of all it is a fantastic display of sportsmanship and camaraderie.

– Ray Schwartz for the Sacramento Kick-Off Tournament


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