CHICAGO, Ill. – The AIG Rugby in a Box initiative will introduce the Rookie Rugby program to more than 200 local school and organizations in the greater Chicagoland area in the build-up to the historic match between the USA Eagles and New Zealand All Blacks at Soldier Field Nov. 1.
According to the National Center for Student Education Statistics, Chicago Public Schools has about 10 times the number of students than the next most-populous district in Illinois with 407,157 students.
The Illinois Youth Rugby Association will award AIG Rugby in a Box kits to schools that run Rookie Rugby in at least one physical education class prior to Oct. 4 and coordinate with Olympic Rugby Ambassadors to deliver hands-on lessons.
“AIG is thrilled to continue its support of the Rookie Rugby program as part of our ongoing efforts to help grow this great game in Chicago and throughout the U.S.,” AIG Property Casualty Midwest Region President Joe Fitzpatrick said. “We hope to see a lot of new rugby players and fans at Soldier Field on November 1.”
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While more than 30,000 students in 55 institutions across the city will learn Rookie Rugby at school, the Chicago Park District is committed to creating substantial and sustainable after-school Rookie Rugby programs, as well. Grant Park will host the Rookie Rugby Festival Oct. 25, where organized teams from schools and parks will showcase the Rookie Rugby program. Chicago Park District will provide the after-school programs for free up until the match at Soldier Field.
“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.”
The Rookie Rugby Festival will hold matches in three divisions, one each for age groups encompassed in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.
Around 50 clubs under the Illinois Youth Rugby Association umbrella will also receive AIG’s Rugby in a Box to sell the program, using the success of Chicago as an example.
“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.”
Following the match between the Eagles and All Blacks, the Illinois Youth Rugby Association will continue to drive the initiative to create additional rugby clubs for IYRA league play. The IYRA will also look to develop a Rookie Rugby league using clubs formed through the Chicago Park District, while clubs will be able to use the AIG Rugby in a Box as a sales tool to generate revenue and a state-wide developmental league.
For more information on how to get an AIG Rugby in a Box kit at your school, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.