It’s been a year of milestones for Rugby Belize. From playing in the national stadium, to pioneering a unique prison rugby program, Rugby Americas North checks in with the quickly developing rugby country to see their progress and find out what’s ahead.
New Venues: First Sevens Matches at the National Stadium
- This past November, Marion Jones Sports Complex was the venue for several inter district sevens matches. The Sports Complex is Belize’s national stadium and this was the first time any rugby game has been played there.
First Inter District Competitions: The First of Many
- Belize hosted the first round of its first inter district competition when San Pedro Turtles hosted Belize City’s Kings Park Scorpions, in August, 2017.
- The second round, in November 2017, saw Kings Park Scorpions hosting San Pedro Turtles. In the spirit of the game and ensuring everyone has an opportunity to play, the reserves of each team combined to play calling themselves the Yaborough Barbarians, and they played two games..
- Their first game of rugby they had just about 4 spectators on championship day they had 50
- 2018 will see the competition spread to include Orange Walk Black Mambas RFC and Hopkins Town
“It was the first time for most of the spectators and they were pretty enthusiastic about the sport after seeing it. And the excitement of the men playing.” – Kwanieze John, RAN GIR Program Manager
Get Into Rugby: Growing the Game
- The program started in Yarborough, an economically challenged community in the southern half of Belize City with young children, and has now spread to Orange Walk in the north of the country.
- In Orange Walk, the teams forming there comprise of ex-American football players who are making the switch to rugby sevens after interest in football has waned on the island.
- To date, one school has introduced a weekly rugby program, and two youth groups have engaged with Rugby Belize to offer rugby as part of their annual summer activities program.
“The GIR program is now taking root in Belize and is being used to introduce new communities such as Orange Walk town and Yarborough into Rugby. These new communities will increase opportunity for play in the country.” – Kwanieze John, RAN GIR Program Manager
Rugby for Rehabilitation: Engaging the Community
- An innovative prison rugby program that is designed to work in conjunction with the Belize Central Prison (Kolbe Foundation) management philosophy of rehabilitation by engaging with the community, raising awareness and building support for inmates when they leave the facility.
- “Rugby Belize wants to be there for them too.” – GIR Program Manager, Kwanieze John
- Belize Central Prison is Belize’s only prison.
- Rugby Belize launched the program with an initial rugby sevens exhibition game in July.
- For the match, Rugby Belize was joined by a visiting coach, Brendan Meany, from Bro Rice Crusaders Rugby, Chicago.
- After a match between Kings Pack Scorpions RFC and San Pedro Turtles RFC, inmates were invited to participate by joining the teams to give rugby a try. They did and they thoroughly enjoyed it.
- Now, Rugby Belize is planning an eight-week training program, focusing on the five core values of rugby.
“The objective of the program is to help rehabilitate inmates back into society, by giving them some character-building tools they didn’t have access to previously. As well as letting them know there’s a place they can go to let off steam and channel any physical aggression in a more socially acceptable manner–their local rugby club.” – Tony Gillings, Rugby Belize Founder & President
Beach Rugby: Gaining Momentum on the Island
- The first ever beach rugby tournament took place in April, 2017, with six teams playing, plus vacationers on the island of Caye Caulker, who formed teams on the spot and took part.
- Impressed with the event, the owner of the venue, James Lynskey asked if Rugby Belize could bring the tournament twice a year.
- The second tournament will be a two-day event planned for Easter weekend at the same venue and has already attracted teams from the USA, Mexico and Canada.
Stay up to date as rugby in Belize continues to grow – Find Rugby Belize on Facebook