Infinity Park has a long history of encouraging kids to stay active. Beginning in 2007, when the park first opened, kids’ rugby came to life with around 30 children participating in the first camp. Director of Rugby, Mark Bullock started the first boys high school team in the Spring of 2007 with 23 players from Wheatridge H.S., where Bullock had been Vice Principal and developed a rugby program. Fast forward to 2019, Infinity Park hosted over 3,700 children from in and around the Denver metro area as participants of a rugby camp, training or program.
Over the years the parks rugby department has developed new camps and teams and has a youth rugby coordinator to help plan and register kids for programs. Currently, Jamie Burke, former USA Women’s Eagles player and Rugby Hall of Fame inductee is coordinating the program. “COVID-19 created a challenge for youth sports and sports camps in Colorado in 2020. We are hoping to get back into a normal cadence of offerings in 2021 with permission from Rugby Colorado”, said Coach Burke. “Twenty-twenty was by far our least attended year at rugby camps, just because we couldn’t offer them!”
When programs are in session, kids who attend learn ball-handling skills, running, passing, kicking, and catching. But that isn’t the only lesson they learn, it’s about care and consideration for fellow teammates and respect for the sport and its cultural aspects. Oh, and did we mention that rugby is fun!
According to Stanford’s Children’s Health, participation in sports leads to better vision, healthy weight, motor and social skill development along with self-confidence, sportsmanship, fun and friendships. (StanfordChildrens.org, n.d.)
As the youth rugby program progresses professional rugby players as well as others have served as coaches and mentors for the youth program. Having adults around who understand and have a passion for the sport helps to inspire children.
“Many of the young players who came through our program are still involved with rugby at a national or international level. Maya Learned who came through the ranks here is on the U.S. Women’s National team and Katie Wurst, a player on the women’s team, is now the Director of Rugby for Queen’s College in Charlotte, NC,” said Mark Bullock, Director of Rugby. We also had a number of our players go on to play in Monaco on the U-12 USA West team – the youngest team to play internationally from the USA. And we’ve had a number of our high school girls players go on to play college rugby.
2020 provided a whole new meaning to #PlayMore with students learning about how to work with others in a remote way. Youth camps were canceled and “at home” training programs became popular with families who wanted to keep kids active. National and International rugby players invented the rugby bottle cap challenge to keep things entertaining.
As we watch the state COVID-19 color dial change from red to orange to yellow, we can’t wait for groups of kids to be in the parks playing again.