Rookie Rugby leagues launch in northern California

VACAVILLE, Calif. - Youth ages five to 12 years old flooded the Vacaville Indoor Sports Complex the first weekend in February, all excited to learn rugby for the first time. As one of the country's newest Rookie Rugby leagues, the Vacaville league is a clear representation of the growing popularity of the sport.

This past Saturday, a kickoff event for the new league started with Vacaville coach Brett Fortney looking to use Rookie Rugby leagues in the area to supplement his growing youth rugby club. In January, Rugby NorCal, the State Rugby Organization covering Northern California, and Vacaville held a Rookie Rugby Course Leader training session at the indoor complex for coaches and administrators, which jumpstarted the foundation for learning and developing rugby leagues for young players across the region. These coaches then facilitated the kickoff event on Saturday morning, assisted by over 20 coaches, high school players, and volunteers.

The large group was broken up into small, age-based groups with each age focused on a different aspect of the game. From throwing and catching to scoring tries and scrimmaging, it was an amazing learning experience for everyone.

Partnerships between youth sport centers, such as the Vacaville Indoor Sports Complex, USA Rugby's Rookie Rugby program, Rugby NorCal and youth rugby clubs are an ideal way for kids to try, stay in, and play rugby. Youth sport centers offer a ready-made population of participants, a familiar environment, and support structures that make introducing a new sport, like rugby, easy, fun, and safe.

"Vacaville Rugby Club has partnered with Vacaville Indoor Sports Complex to run our entire Rookie Rugby Program," Fortney said. "We will use Rookie Rugby to build our foundation following the USA Rugby blueprint to ensure that our kids are not only ready to feed into our high school clubs, the Blackdogs and Lady Blackdogs, but to make sure our athletes are ready to feed into the top programs in the country at the college and international level."

For more information on USA Rugby's Rookie Rugby programs, contact USA Rugby Youth Programs Manager Mike Lovinguth at For information on starting up a club in Northern California, contact Rugby NorCal Operations Manager, Marti Blum at