A letter from the Panther Rugby Club President, Jason Doyle.
First and foremost, thank you all for your patience while we worked behind the scenes to pull together the options for spring rugby for 2021. We want to be completely transparent regarding how and why the decisions about the season were made, so it's important for us to share with you the three biggest challenges we face:
1. Panther Rugby is a club sport. We are not a school sponsored sport. All coaches and leadership affiliated with this club are volunteers. We all choose to donate our time to this club because it is our desire to share our passion for the sport in an effort to create additional opportunities for today's youth. We all work full time jobs outside of the school system, and as such, none of us are currently around large groups of kids. Resuming rugby practice dramatically increases our risk of exposure to the virus, and we unfortunately do not have the same opportunity as the school employees to be vaccinated early.
2. Limited use of school facilities. At this time, the Perry Local School district is following several coronavirus precautions, including limiting the use of Perry facilities to Perry students only, except during official competition. While we understand and agree with this precaution, our club was built on inclusivity, and many of our long-time players join us from neighboring school districts – so this does directly impact our club and many of our players.
3. Coaching shortages. When the pandemic hit, we were prepared to support the growth of our club by introducing multiple new coaches who were in the midst of USA Rugby's coaching certification program, which unfortunately was halted. Though USA Rugby has resumed issuing Level 100 coaching certifications online, they have not yet resumed Level 200 and above, which impacts the number of tackle coaches available to run practices. Additionally, it pains me to share that I will also be contributing to the coaching shortage. Due to a medical condition that I have, it is best for me to step aside from any involvement until further notice. This decision was not made lightly - I've consulted with multiple doctors and a mental health professional for guidance, and I have agonized over the decision for quite some time. Unfortunately, it is best for me to limit my exposure to people outside of my immediate bubble.
With all of this being said, rugby is still available for all age groups this year - but not without challenges for some groups. We are asking you to focus on the opportunity, not the challenges. Last year, the opportunity to play was taken from all of our kids - none of us had any choice in the matter. This year is better, but we know it's still not perfect. We anticipate 2022 to return to our past standards.
Flag Boys and Girls grades K-5:
Perry students interested in participating will be coached by Bryan Jacobsen. There will be no indoor practices. Outdoor practices will begin in April, just after Easter. Match schedules and additional details to follow.
Non-Perry students will have the ability to play with the Canton Lil Pups program, and will be coached by Matt Carmany. Contact Matt to discuss the opportunity to play flag rugby this spring at 330-605-2126.
Note: a minimum of 7 players are required to field a team. Canton and Perry are planning on playing co-ed flag rugby this spring against one another during the months of April and May.
Middle School Boys and Girls grades 5-8:
Perry students interested in participating will be coached by Doug Higgins. There will be no indoor practices. Outdoor practices will be held Monday and Wednesday starting March 15th. Match schedules and additional details to follow.
Non-Perry students will have the ability to play with the Canton team and will be coached by Chris Wright. Contact Chris to discuss the opportunity to play this spring at 330-354-0439.
Note: a minimum of 7 players are required to field a team. Dover, Canton and Perry are all planning on fielding middle school teams, competing against each other during the months of April and May, with an opportunity to possibly play other teams at the state tournament as well.
High School Boys grades 9-12: All Stark County area high school boys will merge and play as Canton Rugby for the 2021 spring season. Canton will be coached by Donnie Harbert. Boys are encouraged to reach out to Donnie to discuss the opportunity at 216-801-8082.
High School Girls grades 9-12: All Stark County area high school girls will be welcomed by Highland Rugby and will be coached by Dave Sambor. Girls are encouraged to reach out to Dave to discuss the opportunity at 216-470-1533.
Again, we appreciate your patience as we worked out the details for rugby this spring, and we thank you for your support and understanding.