Youth rugby on the rise

The Scottsdale Wolves at practice. Maya John running with the ball. In support from left to right: Gearoid O'Brien, Aiden John, Rydge Grewe and Garrett Kirkendoll.

“There is some sort of basic obviousness to the sport,” says Joel Borie.  “You take a ball and as a team try to carry it across the opponent’s line while they try to physically stop you.  You don’t need to understand all the rules to appreciate the object of the game.”

Borie is the coach of the Scottsdale Wolves, a co-ed touch-rugby team made up of players 6 through 13 years old.  At the moment, the Wolves are one of two U-13 teams that participate in the Arizona Youth Rugby Union.  The Wolves are sponsored by International School of Arizona, while a second team, BASIS Scottsdale, consists of 5th, 6th and 7th graders from the BASIS Scottsdale school.

Brennan Kelly (with the ball) being pursued by Alexandre Borie (9) and Max Cohen (3). Rydge Grewe (left) looks on.

“Rugby is a true team sport,” Borie says. “All players contribute, get a chance to carry the ball and to score.  Football, on the other hand, has a few stars and the rest of the ‘team’ are enablers.”

Borie is a 43-year-old Frenchman who was born and raised in a rugby culture in southwestern France. He moved to Arizona in 1990, got his MBA at ASU, got married and is raising his three children in the Valley. Two years ago, Borie came across Scottsdale Youth Rugby and started bringing his then 7-year-old son, Alexandre, to its practices.  Eventually, Borie got more involved in the club and this year became its head coach.

Games between the Wolves and BASIS Scottsdale take place on 70-by-40-yard field at Chaparral Park at Hayden and Jackrabbit in Scottsdale. There are seven players on a side. One of the players for the BASIS is Borie’s 11-year-old daughter, Danielle. Borie’s wife, Michelle, is the executive director of the International School of Arizona, so games are truly a family affair.

Borie hopes to expand youth rugby in the Valley.  There are currently seven high school club rugby teams and this fall a U15 tackle rugby team will be started in Scottsdale.

“All sizes and skill levels have some room in rugby,” Borie says. “Big and tall, big and short, small and fast, small and smart.  There is a place for everyone.”

If you would like to learn more about youth rugby and see the Wolves and BASIS Scottsdale play, you don’t have to wait long. They play tomorrow, March 26, at noon at Chaparral Park. — Dan Barr

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