Friday, October 5, 2018

Stapleton-Park Hill Wolfpack: Youth Rugby

Stapleton-Park Hill Wolfpack Rugby Club
You may be aware of the coyotes in evidence on the fringes of development in Stapleton neighborhoods, but did you know that there is a pack of wolves inner-Stapleton, lurking ravenous? It’s been rumored this young and hungry band’s range extends into the Park Hill area, but sightings have been rare thus far this season. This group travel as well. They’ve been spotted as far west as City Park, but their den seems to be in the vicinity of Westerly Creek Elementary School.

Nae worries, though, for the Stapleton-Park Hill Wolfpack is a formative youth rugby club that counts over 40 active members, an alpha member, ten coaches and an extremely solid administrative arm. Rugby gained notoriety with the inclusion of the 7-a-side code at the Rio Olympics – USA didn’t medal, but we had Ben Pinkelman, a former Cherry Creek High School rugby star on the team!

Trey Walker is club president and alpha wolf. He began his rugby journey with Steamboat Springs Rugby Club more than two decades past and continued his personal development with Denver Highlanders, a vibrant area adult clubside. Walker yet gets a match or so in with Highlanders Olde Boys every year. He became involved in the youth game somewhat serendipitously, though in a manner in which many adults get hooked: “I had hoped my kids would play and found the Stapleton-Park Hill rugby club online. At the time our former (SPH) coach was Andre Bachelet who had played internationally for USA Eagles (America;s national team). If I had the chance I wanted my kids to be coached by someone with that type of pedigree. When I registered my daughter, I saw how much work he was doing by himself and offered to help coach the flag players and take on some administrative functions. It’s a ton of work but the families that are part of our club are phenomenal and that is what really keep me coming back.”

The youth game is played on two levels, contact and non-contact (flag). Co-ed teams, or sides, play through 11 years, thereafter rugby is gender-determinant. Ages 5-to-7 play non-contact, while those 8 and older engage in tackle rugby with all safety elements of that contact rigorously imparted at training sessions through the week prior to match play on the weekends.

SPH Wolfpack Youth Rugby Club

At its early stages, rugby has no losers, only winners, says Walker: “I don’t see losers at any of the age levels. Rugby is a rewarding but hard game. It has so many momentum shifts throughout a match. I think that ability to roll with those emotional ups and downs helps build character. I’ve seen countless players be very tentative throughout an entire season. They come back for the next season and something clicks and they are a different player. The biggest reward is when their parents compliment us on how all of our coaches stay positive and encouraging to help (their kids) through the aspects they struggle with.”

Rugby is about sport, but as Mr. Walker has stated it’s about building character, too. Individual work within a group, the goal being to move a ball a defined distance through an opposing group bent on ending that movement, is nascent collaboration – and if the 21st Century has a watchword, it must be that combined effort, which produces progress.

Matt and Ryan Ackerman joined the Wolfpack over three years ago. For Matt, the father, rugby means, “my son gets the challenge of athletics in a team environment.  He gets to learn the reward of hard work.” Ryan feels that rugby, “is a sport full of passion and responsibility,  I play with amassing young athletes and I am proud to say I play with my teammates.” Both claim New Zealand All Blacks, the #1-ranked side in the world as a team they enjoy watching.

The Wolfpack play in two seasons: Spring/Summer season starts mid-April and goes through the end of June. Fall season starts the first week of school and goes through mid-October. Both seasons have six weeks of match competitions and Walker reports it’s not too late to become involved. Contact:

Stapleton-Park Hill Rugby has goals. Short term, within this season, Walker, intends that, “the kids know how to play safely, persevere and have fun !”
Mid-term, within one year, aims are laudable: “Continue to grow, but the Wolfpack is going to put a huge effort into establishing a middle school girls side. This sports attracts all different types of athletes and we feel Northeast Denver is primed for a girls side at this level. With we would love to work with (Denver) East’s girls team to ensure the next level of players that come on the pitch have the basic skills to compete at the next level.”

Finally, Walker’s Wolves, “want to grow, but maintain our cohesive club culture. That will be the trick. “ He continues, “Also, we’re looking to hire a full time director of coaching to assist the Wolfpack in establishing a brand of rugby through all age groups.”

Coaching staff: Sam Medve, Tory Patnoe, Marty McGuirk, David Spilsted, Mark Hussian, Chris Conforti, Alistair Young, David Barth, Colin Donnelly, Alex Hodgkin

You can catch “The Pack” at the following venues, times and dates:

Trainings: Mondays and Wednesday, 6-7pm at Westerly Creek Elementary

Match Competitions:
 Saturday, September 15th, 2018 (all day)
               Location: City Park, Corner of 23rd and Colorado
Saturday, September 22nd, 2018 (all day)
Saturday, September 29th, 2018 (all day)
               Location: City Park, Corner of 23rd and Colorado
Saturday, October 6th, 2018 (all day)
               Location: City Park, Corner of 23rd and Colorado
Saturday, October 13th, 2018 (all day)
               Location: City Park, Corner of 23rd and Colorado


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