First published in the Lethbridge Herald Wednesday, November 13, 2019.
"Rugby has a long history in southern Alberta, beginning in the late 1800s with a division of the Northwest Mounted Police holding exhibition games in 1884 and 1885", according to bridgerugby.ca. No doubt having local sport historian and rugby coach Rob Kossuth involved has led to a detailed history on the Lethbridge Rugby Club’s website.
Many successful women rugby players have come from Lethbridge. Keegan Brantner, Sara Cline, and Sydney Del Amar played for Canada U18 and U20 teams. Canadian senior team rosters have included Kelsey Willoughby and Hailey Driscoll. Most notably Ashley Steacy was named to Canada's first-ever rugby sevens Olympic team which won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Steacy got her rugby start in high school at age 15 and was a member of the Lethbridge Rugby Club. She was on the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns Women's Rugby team which were three-time CIS champions from 2007 - 2009.
These players achieved their success in part because of the architects and coaches of the local rugby programs. Undeniably, Lethbridge's most accomplished rugby coach, Neil Langevin, received national recognition as the 2009 CIS Coach of the Year.
The pathway to rugby participation has many entry points.
The Alberta Junior Rugby Association uses Rugby Canada's Rookie Rugby program to introduce the game in a safe way to school children. Rookie Rugby is a non-contact form of rugby that uses flag belts to allow players to learn the basics. All equipment is supplied and comes at no charge to schools to provide sessions between February and June.
The Lethbridge Rugby Club in its current state was founded in 1971. A women's team joined its membership in 1999, as well as a program expansion to include boys and girls Minis (ages 8-13) and Junior (ages 14-19).
Next July, Lethbridge will be witness to our next generation of national rugby players ascend on Lethbridge for the 2020 Alberta Summer Games.
The 2020 Alberta Summer Games will host U15 boys' and girls' rugby sevens competition with teams from 8 zones across the province. All rugby events for the Games will be held at Chinook High School.
Zone teams will be an existing club registered with Rugby Alberta that applies to Rugby Alberta to represent that region. If multiple clubs within a zone apply, there will be a playoff for the right to represent the region.
Throughout the year, Lethbridge Sport Council will publish articles about each of the 14 sports included in the 2020 Alberta Summer Games.
For more local sports information visit www.lethbridgesportcouncil.ca