Seal Beach residents Stu and Paula Ledsam fondly refer to Belmont Shore Rugby Club as “family.” As president of the Rugby Club, Stu is the “face of the operation” and Paula is his biggest supporter. And it is indeed a proud, successful family.
Over the last couple of weeks, the senior men’s team beat San Francisco/Golden Gate 51-0 and San Diego/OMBAC 55-15. Also the club hosted over 700 young players (5-16 years) for a Juniors’ Tournament at Long Beach City College where most of our local teams proved invincible. As emphasized in previous columns, however, values of civility, respect and discipline are equally paramount in the youth program and are a constant focus for coaches, players and parents. All junior players are given tee shirts displaying the New Zealand/Maori mantra “Whakaraupapa” (which means “Discipline”) and spectators at their games or practice sessions often comment on the players’ remarkable personal citizenship qualities as well as their athleticism.
Typical of dedicated group leaders is Adam Charlesworth who coaches the Belmont Boys and Girls Under 12 years teams. Adam is a medical technology executive who hails from Toronto and was captain of the SMU rugby team before starring in the Dallas Harlequins rugby program then moving on to Southern California and joining the prestigious, nationally recognized Belmont Shore squad.
Like several of the junior team coaches, Adam’s son and daughter also play (and love!) the game of rugby. An increasing number of boys and girls here in the Long Beach/Seal Beach area are choosing rugby over other sports and continuing to play at the High School level and beyond.
Los Alamitos and Wilson High Schools are considered among the very best at this age level and college scholarships are becoming increasingly available throughout USA. It is noteworthy that many young football players are now turning to rugby because, although it is certainly a robust game, the traditional rugby side tackle technique rather than a head-to-head collision, ensures less danger of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Some professional football teams are also adopting the rugby tackle for similar reasons.
A great example of a rich rugby family tradition is the local Dowgiewicz family. When Ryan Dowgiewicz came home and told his parents Kevin and Dr. Tami Dowgiewicz that he was joining a rugby team at Wilson High School they were apprehensive yet excited about the possibility of bringing a new sport into their family.
Accompanied by their youngest son, Brett, they went to every game. Trying to learn the rules along the way, they quickly became hooked with the game’s fast-paced nature and the traditional rugby values toted by the coaches and players. Ryan went on to join the Belmont Shore Youth rugby program and is still playing at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. Brett started playing as a 12-year-old and his family consider it as “a life changing experience” for him.
He is now a 17-year-old High School junior and he has already traveled the world playing the game that he loves. Last summer he traveled with Belmont Shore Youth Rugby to New Zealand where he attended the International Rugby Academy and he also played for Belmont Shore at the North America 7-a-side Invitational in Utah.
The summer also afforded him the opportunity to train at West Point and play in Boise as well as, internationally, in Ireland with the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy (EIRA) which offers unique opportunities to exceptional young players who aspire to eventually play for the USA National Team (The Eagles). Brett will be representing EIRA in the Tropical 7-a-side tournament in Florida next month.
There are 15 players in a standard rugby team, but the 7-a-side game is becoming increasingly popular as it is played on a full-size field requiring extra speed, endurance and overall challenging game skills. USA Eagles 7-a-side team is now Number One in the world rankings and we look forward to their quest for gold medals at the Olympic Games next year in Tokyo, Japan.
Dr. Dowgiewicz believes that rugby has helped her boys to become not only better athletes but also well-rounded young men who have good core values. The skills and opportunities afforded to them have helped them grow and play well beyond a high school setting.
Fine young men like Brett Dowgiewicz represent everything that is great about sports participation. Many important life lessons can be learned on the playing field and we encourage our Long Beach/Seal beach youngsters to consider joining the Belmont Shore Youth Rugby program. We also hope our readers will come to Long Beach State and support our local team. Admission is free and general information is available on Belmontshorerfc.com.
Former England international player and coach, Ed Robinson, who was also a professor at CSU Long Beach, updates Sun Region readers regularly on the unprecedented explosion of rugby here in the Long Beach/Seal Beach area.