Friday, March 3, 2017

Touch in Town

In Touch w/Mike Tafel: Mike won USA Rugby National Championships at University of Northern Colorado (MCD2) and Glendale Raptors (MD1). These days he works as a Software Engineer (specializing in mobile and web mapping). Mike is happily married to partner, Andrea Englander, and he plies his rugby trade regularly at touch sessions around the town. Mike serves as facilitator of a touch rugby network that counts over 450 members on its Facebook page.

Touch at Washington Park

Mr. Tafel informs:
First, I wouldn’t call it 7s specific touch, just good ol’ fashioned touch. There have been various incarnations of touch session through the years. Prior to us getting off the ground (current rendition of play), it was held at City Park. About four years ago, a few former Glendale Raptors and Denver Harlequins players wanted to restart a weekly touch session that was club and gender agnostic, more as an addition to our attempts to not get fat. It’s way more enjoyable to run around playing touch then it is to run on a treadmill at lunch time. We’ve always made it a point to keep it fun and to be inclusive. We generally go out for a pops or beer after as well. The first session (in the current continuum) was myself, John McGuire (Glendale), Matt Truta (Harlequins) and Ted Browner (Glendale) at Congress Park. We obviously needed more folks so I started a Facebook group called ‘Touch Rugby in Denver’. I moved to the Sunnyside neighborhood so we made Sloans Lake our home and used the Facebook group to schedule sessions. It’s grown quite a bit to where in the summer we consistently get greater than 25 people out at Sloan’s Lake and we have other folks posting recurring sessions as well; for example, last summer Katie Dahl got a group going in Highlands Ranch.

Another cool thing we’ve been able to do (with the exception of this year) is we’ve pooled money and rented out space at indoor soccer facilities so we can keep the touch going into the winter months. Last year we played at the Foothills Sports Arena for 75 minutes one night a week. We had folks underwrite it with $40 fees, or charged $10 to drop in. It was very successful. And that facility is awesome, it’s a full sized soccer pitch; we rented out half (that space). Perfect for touch. This winter, depending on weather we’ve been playing Sunday mornings at Wash Park near the Gazebo on the east side. We’ll be starting the Sloans Lake sessions in the next six weeks.

There is momentum for creating a competitive touch team to send to nationals in October. I’m not a part of that
- being a retired prop forward I enjoy the more relaxed touch- but Jon a couple are spearheading that and are looking for other folks who are interested. Facebook page for: “Denver Touch Rugby”. Jon Twibell and Brenna Costello are heading up the competitive touch initiative, they’re both relatively new to Denver and played competitive touch on the East Coast.   

It has been very cool to be able to bring the Denver rugby community together, to put the club politics aside and just enjoy rugby together. Any given session in the summer there are folks associated Glendale, the Barbos, the ‘Quins, the Highlanders, Black Ice, etc. We have former Eagles, current pros, women, high schoolers, folks who’ve never played rugby before, expats living in Denver, expats on holiday, you name it. Not entirely sure what the future will bring, I’d like to see recurring touch happening all over the metro area. There’s been some early talk of setting up an official touch league, not unlike a rec softball league, but not sure who will put that together? Personally I look forward to fun, casual touch at Sloans Lake in the summers, grabbing a beer after and talking rugby. One cool note is that our Facebook group has grown to greater than 450 members!

Touch happens at Sloans Lake in Denver at the semi-circle parking lot at W. Bryan Pl and Stuart St. There are other infrequent sessions at Wash Park as well.

We do have a specific set of rules that we’ve evolved into:
       2 hand touch
       defense gets back 5 steps
       5 touches = turnover
       Any ball that touches the ground is turned over (not rewarding crap passes)
       dummy half can’t score
       If dummy half is touched, turn over
       No kicking and full-size rugby ball preferred
o      We acknowledge that these aren’t the rules of ‘real’ touch. Like I said, there are some folks who are looking to play ‘real’ or as we say ‘fit’ touch (see above). They’re looking to formalize and put a team or team(s) into the national touch championships. I am very supportive of this as a separate entity.

As to eligibility, ongoing touch is open to everyone as we welcome all comers; we’ve had young as 10 and as old as… really old.  I administrate and modify the Facebook group and I encourage anyone who wants to formalize a recurring session or even an ad-hoc one to post (that intention) on the Facebook page. Best way to keep “in touch” is to pay attention to the posts on the Facebook page. 

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