Monday, June 2, 2008

New York City Sports Commission Welcomes First Ever City-Wide Youth Rugby Tournament

(Health and Fitness), Play Rugby USA, a national non-profit organization devoted to developing youth through rugby, announced that on Saturday, June 7, Kenneth J. Podziba, Commissioner of the New York City Sports Commission, will present the first ever Mayor's Cup trophy and awards to the winning Middle School and Elementary school teams participating in the Mayor's Cup rugby tournament as part of the inaugural National Rugby Week activities. The Mayor's Cup will be the culmination of a week-long, non-contact coaching clinics for girls and boys ages 8 to 14 led by Play Rugby, Inc. The event will be held at Columbia University's Baker Field and organizers are expecting 24 teams from all five boroughs of the city to participate in the program and compete against each other for the Mayor's Cup.

"Play Rugby USA has developed an excellent program that is truly committed to the development of New York City's Youth," said Commissioner Podziba. "As one of the world's most popular sports, rugby can provide children from all backgrounds with another constructive outlet for them to improve their personal development and athletic achievements. We are truly thrilled to be supporting this landmark event and look forward to watching its continued growth and success."

Play Rugby USA's first group of participants in 2004 was made up of 75 homeless children. The following year, Play Rugby USA began their school-based program and has since grown to support programs in more than 50 schools throughout all five boroughs of the city. The program is now a fully integrated youth development program that has positively influenced over 5,000 children.

"Currently, 85% of the children participating in the youth program in New York come from undeserved backgrounds," said Mark Griffin, Founder of Play Rugby, Inc. "Rugby is truly a team sport and it teaches the children invaluable lessons in teamwork and self-discipline that provide them with lifelong tools for success both on and off the pitch. We have received tremendous feedback from teachers and administrators about how inspiring it is to see participants improving their self-esteem and exhibiting increased cooperation and fewer behavioral problems after participating in our program.

To have the support and endorsement of the Sports Commission in New York is an incredible honor and testament to the difference this program is making. We look forward to working with the city to expand our reach to all of New York City's youth."

National Rugby Week is a joint effort between USA Rugby and Play Rugby USA to raise awareness of rugby in the U.S. and to develop youth at the grassroots of the sport. The events in New York will also be celebrated with a match between the USA Select National Team and an England Counties side on Friday, June 6 at 7:00 PM at Baker Field.

To maximize the week's experience for participants and fans, Play Rugby USA is launching The "Play Rugby Club" is a free and secure online learning social network that will provide event updates, video footage and photos from National Rugby Week's New York activities, discussion forums and real-time blogs from professional Play Rugby USA coaches. One of the main features of the site will be an "International PenPal" program that enables students to connect and build relationships with students from other rugby playing schools and nations around the world. The unique site will integrate into the Play Rugby USA's after school program for member schools.

The Mayor's Cup Trophy will be housed for a limited time at the newly opened Sports Museum of America located in downtown Manhattan, before being presented to the winning school team.

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