BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The Kern Youth Rugby organization was established back in 2014 with an aim to build community through the sport of Rugby. And that is exactly what the kids there are doing.
“I absolutely love it. I've played sports all growing up and my dad has always kind of been my coach, but this is a sport that’s like it feels more family than anywhere else I have ever been,” says Rugby player Julieann Byers.
Julieann Byers, a player for the high school Rugby team says her family was good friends with one of the founders of the organization, and when they mentioned Rugby to Byers that is when she decided to give it a try.
But now a year and a half later, Byers has realized her potential in the sport.
“I really like to do it for fun, but I do see myself going somewhere maybe with a scholarship or something like that because I know a lot of the East Coast schools offer scholarships and I don't know maybe that is something I am looking forward to into the future, I think so,” said Byers.
While the Rugby youth group is fairly new to Bakersfield, the sport itself is not as there has been a men's Rugby team since the ‘70s.
And one of those former players is now the Board Director and a Coach for the youth Rugby group.
“One team versus another, but afterwards part of the tradition is you get together and you break bread together, and that is what we are trying to push here within this youth community in Bakersfield. It’s the community that brings people together,” said Board Director and Coach for Kern Youth Rugby Tim Antongiovanni.
The Kern Youth Rugby organization offers ages 5 through eighteen to compete.
Now with more kids involved, that means more competition.
“We have expanded out, we play, there’s a Central Cal in Fresno that we have played a couple of times, and in two weeks we are going to welcome teams from the Central Coast to play so that our kids can play against some other competition to see what Rugby is like outside of Kern County,” said Antongiovanni.
Tim Antongiovanni the Board Director and Coach for the Kern Youth Rugby says that is all about the kids, and also offering the sport of Rugby to other less fortunate children in Kern County.
“We’ve never turned anybody away for financial reasons, so we just want to reach out and bring those people into our Rugby community, and let them experience what we do,” said Antongiovanni.
Antogiovanni wants all kids to have a chance to play the sport of Rugby just like Byers.
Byers says she likes that Rugby teaches teamwork.
“I think it’s really cool how we can all watch our positions on the field like some people are not the fastest runners, and some people are not the strongest tacklers, but we all have our own position, and we all work together as a team to make it work, and we do pretty well I think,” said Byers.
Byers says the one thing she loves the most about the sport is the family aspect.
“Like after the game they feed us pizza, like we all talk, we all get each other's numbers and stuff, we text, so it’s a lot of fun, I really like that part,” said Byers.