Published in the March 23, 2016 edition


SALEM — What is both old and new?

Rugby football is one of the oldest sports, dating back to the 19th century, but at Palmer Cove Park in Salem the game is just beginning.

Currently, competitive youth rugby in Massachusetts is governed by the Massachusetts Youth Rugby Organization or MYRO. Starting next year, rugby will fall under the MIAA and more public schools are expected to begin programs as the demand for rugby increases.

Rugby is the ultimate team sport for both male and female players, coaches, and fans. Both fitness and skill are emphasized, and safety is optimized with first aid and team doctors present at all games. With a stress on discipline, teams must cooperate as one unit if they want to have success in the sport.

There is good news for American football coaches and players as well in that the rugby season doesn’t conflict with the football season, running from April to August. Also, rugby can be one of the best ways to keep in top fitness for the next season on the gridiron.

Teams usually play two 40-minute halves of 15-on-15 play. However, due to numbers the game has been modified to fit a 7-on-7 format as well. In the Massachusetts Youth Rugby Organization, the teams play two 30-minute halves.

North Shore Youth Rugby Football Club (NSYRFC) is run out of Salem and has been in existence since 2009.

The club is open to ages 7-18, with teams at the U-10, U-13, U-15 and U-18 levels. In Spring 2015, the club staked claim to its very own field at Palmer Cove Park in Salem in partnership with the Salem Recreational Department. The club is seeking players from the surrounding area, including Lynnfield, to sign up for its teams.

The club’s director is Des Crowley.

“It’s a very disciplined sport,” said Crowley in a recent interview. “That’s one of the main things to take out of it for the kids. It’ll give your kid a base in the sport. He’ll learn the skill and he can play at youth, high school, college and up to the adult levels. It builds connections, and if you’re traveling around the world, every country has a rugby club.”

“The network is world wide. They call it the rugby brotherhood,” Crowley added.

“It’s a very aerobic sport; you’re either running or tackling or wrestling all the time, so you have to be fit. Parents won’t have to worry about picking up kids who aren’t tired from running,” continued Crowley.

NSYRFC will provide coaching and referees for practices and games held every Sunday. The club plays a variety of versions of the game, ranging from 15 players per side to sevens.

Flag or Tag Rugby is a sport for all age groups, 7-17 years. Sevens Rookie Rugby, without the tackling, is included as an Olympic medal event in the Summer Olympics of 2016 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Learning how to play rugby begins with Tag Rugby for all players from 7 to 13 years of age. Developing the skills of all participants and having fun with a rugby ball once per week is emphasized.

Intermediate Contact Rugby (not mandatory) is being introduced this spring to the U-12 (9,10,11 and 12-year-olds) and U-15 (12,13 and 14-year-olds) group players who are ready. All registered players will be participating in tag rugby.

Sign ups began on March 1. U-8’s through U-15’s may register to play for the North Shore Youth RFC-Trailblazers. All players are required to be registered with USA Rugby and coaches must be registered and certified.

“As a rule for our club, parents don’t coach their kids,” Crowley said.

That’s NSYRFC’s rule, but there are currently 12 clubs that are part of the MYRO around the area. More information can be found on their website,

With spring upon us, your children might want to give a new sport a try. Here is an opportunity for them to get involved with a sport they may love for the rest of their lives. Why not let them try it out?