200 Rugby in a Box kits distributed around Eagles/All Blacks match

This fall, in conjunction with the Eagles versus the All Blacks match in November, USA Rugby and the Illinois Youth Rugby Association distributed 200 Rugby-in-a-Box kits generously donated by AIG to schools and organizations in the greater Chicago area. The boxes, which include everything needed to start a Rookie Rugby program including youth-size balls, cones, flags and rugby education materials, were used to establish Rookie Rugby programs in as many schools in the Chicago area as possible.

According to the National Center for Student Education Statistics, Chicago Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the nation. It has about 10 times the number of students compared to the next most-populous district in Illinois with 407,157 students.

AIG Rugby in a Box kits were given to schools that ran Rookie Rugby in at least one physical education class prior to Oct. 4 and coordinated with Olympic Rugby Ambassadors to deliver hands-on lessons. More than 50 Physical Education teachers were trained during August to lead Rookie Rugby programs in their schools. They then led in-school outreach sessions, which were given during 261 classes and were attended by more than 9,300 students.

"One of the keys to achieving significant growth for our port is to put a rugby ball in the hands of as many new players as possible," Illinois Youth Rugby Association Youth Development Officer Drew Parker said. "When you see these kids running with the ball for the first time, you get the sense that they're going to be involved in the sport for a long time."

Around 50 clubs under the Illinois Youth Rugby Association umbrella also received AIG's Rugby in a Box to sell the program around the state, using the success of Chicago as an example.

The Chicago Park District was instrumental in providing a space for and supporting the creation of afterschool Rookie Rugby programs around the city leading up to the November match. To culminate the Rugby in a Box initiative, Grant Park hosted the Rookie Rugby Festival on October 25, where organized teams from schools and parks showcased the Rookie Rugby program. Around 150 youth were put through the Rookie Rugby program during the festival, held just days before the historic U.S. versus New Zealand match.

"The opportunity that AIG and USA Rugby have given our organization is going to bring our sport to thousands who had never held a ball before, never scored a try before, and many times never even heard of rugby before," Parker said.