On the last day of the Mystic Youth Rugby program, the kids were visited by Mayor Gary Christenson who offered them words of wisdom to take with them as the program ended as well as his support for what the program has done.The Mystic Youth Rugby program was started by members of the men’s Mystic River Rugby team and Mayor Christenson was so,”impressed with what they’ve been able to achieve over the years, both on and off the field,” that when he heard that the rugby club had created a way to include youth he wanted to, “come up and say thank you to them for not only doing great things at the men’s level,” but now, “reaching down to try to help our youth.” The Youth Director of the program, Nick Hildebidle, agrees with Mayor Christenson since the men’s club, “wanted to find a way for their kids and for other kids to play as well,” and are proud of the program that they started for the youth.
While the program is already incredible for their work in encouraging kids to practice and enjoy a non mainstream sport, what makes the program even more unique is the inclusion of girls in the Mystic Youth Rugby program. Since Hildebidle is the coach of a women’s rugby team at Boston University, it is clear that the inclusion of girls at the youth level truly held importance to him. “My personal philosophy is we want as many people playing rugby as possible, that’s boys, girls, men, women.” He went on to say that while there are certainly a lot of girls in the flag program, Mystic Youth Rugby is one of the few programs that, “works to have girls in [their] middle school tackle program.” Hildebidle also makes sure that the girls in the program are being educated by other women as well since he brings in players from his team at BU to act as female coaches for the team. Mayor Christenson believes that, “the sky’s the limit,” for where the inclusion of women in rugby could lead, since the sport is growing and it has been recently sanctioned in some form for high schools.
Before the kids went off to scrimmage for the final time, Mayor Christenson had a few words of wisdom to share with them.
“I just wanted all of you to know that you’ve chosen a great program. Because what they’re teaching you is really about life. That is hard work and dedication which are the keys to success. Make sure you listen closely to what they’re telling you because it’s going to benefit you down the road.”
And while Hildebidle agrees that rugby is a great way to foster commitment and skills that transfer off the field, his number one thing is he “want[s] kids to have fun playing rugby.” Even if the kids never play rugby again he hopes that maybe one day they’ll, “catch it on TV [and] they’ll know what’s going on,” and be reminded of memories from the youth program. Or maybe,”they’ll come down [to Pine Banks] and watch the men’s team play.” However, if they do decide to keep playing, Hildebidle says, “it’s going to be because they enjoy it.” Rugby isn’t a common sport and you don’t necessarily see it a lot on TV so, “its got to be a thing that they really enjoy.”
Whether or not the kids in the program continue to play rugby is undetermined, however what is clear is that the work the coaches are doing with these kids is impacting them in a wonderful way. “I’m glad to be able to call the Mystic River Rugby Club our own,” Mayor Christenson stated and we at Pine Banks Park couldn’t agree more. We’re happy that, “Pine Banks Park became home to the club (Hildebilde)” and are excited to see what’s in store for the Mystic River Rugby Club in the future!