High school rugby players should have positive environment

Christopher Cameron
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Rugby N.S. senior coach holds clinic in Pictou County for local players

For most, if not all, rugby players in high school it’s their first time playing the game.


Rugby Nova Scotia provincial senior rugby coach Jack Hanratty speaks with Pictou County high school rugby players during a clinic this week in Stellarton, which was hosted by Rugby N.S. 

Although multiple mini-rugby programs popped up around the province last year, right now in Nova Scotia the high school programs are still the “grass roots.”

Rugby Nova Scotia provincial senior rugby coach Jack Hanratty said it’s for that reason that the main focus for high school rugby needs to be creating a positive environment for players.

“It (goal of high school rugby) should be to give them a positive environment and that’s what we’re looking for,” he said. “Rugby is one of the greatest sports because of discipline, there’s the respect to the coach, respect to players and respect to a referee that you don’t get in all sports. That’s what we’re looking to show. It’s not only a game, a lot of people say it’s a lifestyle.”

Hanratty moved to Nova Scotia last April from Ireland, coming into the Nova Scotia provincial program with experience from the IRFU (Irish Rugby Football Union). After nearly a year here with Rugby N.S. he said there is still progress to be made throughout the province.

“I think that’s a two-part question because I’m happy with the attitude of athletes in Nova Scotia, but our ability isn’t where we’d like it to be and our provincial standard as high as it should be,” he said. “We go away to national programs and we’ve had a lot of Pictou (County) representatives, but sometimes it’s a cause of whether you can afford it or not and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

In Stellarton this week for a clinic with Pictou County high school players, Hanratty said the reality of the sport is that high school coaches are teaching the basics of the game including tackling, passing and game plans. He said he’s going around the province to try to make it slightly easier for the high school players and coaches as they prepare for the season.

“The high school season is so small and the players and coaches only have time to only make a game plan, but what I’m trying to do is go around and do it outside the norm,” he said. “I’m trying to teach basic skills that they can do in their own time. All they need is a rugby ball, soccer ball or something oval shaped to practice that. The reception from players and coaches has been phenomenal, it’s been excellent.”

Some of these high school players have the potential to go on to play for the province at national or Atlantic events. Hanratty said he wants kids at high schools to understand the potential of where they can go with the game, especially months ahead of those tournaments.

“We’re trying use a lot of fundraising events to make sure that it’s not expensive for kids to go and play sport and represent their province,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest things for me. In this area especially it’s a pleasure to drive down. Some people in HRM might think Pictou is far away and for 20 kids to drive to HRM it’s an issue, but for me, one person to drive down it’s not so much an issue.

“We’re trying to make sure it’s on the radar for kids, not a month out, but within six months so they know they’re building for this and they can start setting that 50 bucks away (here and there over those months).”

In an interview last July with The News, Hanratty said that rugby in Ireland is like hockey and football here in North America. He said part of his travelling around the province is also making sure high school players know the potential opportunities to keep playing the sport past high school.

“It’s in the next Olympics, but how many people know that – not a lot,” he said. “Why not in 2016 or 2020 have people from Nova Scotia going to the Olympics? I want people from Pictou (County) to get up and say rugby is my sport of choice, I want to go to a world cup, I want to play professional rugby and I want to go to the Olympics.”

Hanratty’s travelling the province continues for the next few weeks with the high school season starting in mid-April.



On Twitter: @NGNewsChris


Organizations: IRFU, Rugby Football Union

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Pictou County, Ireland Stellarton HRM North America

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