Sports Equals Confidence: A coach making play possible
The entire team at Every Kid Sports gets excited when we hear about clubs and coaches that do everything in their power to ensure that kids are getting a chance to play. One of these coaches, Andy Ramsay, is the founder and coach of the Rainier Highlanders Junior Rugby Club in Washington state. Andy is a veteran player who hails from Scotland, where he played for his local club team before going on to Australia and New Zealand as a guest player in these countries. Eventually, Andy made his way to the States to finish his playing career, marry and start a family.
Andy now resides in Pierce County, WA, where he has, with his fellow volunteers, built a successful youth rugby club that has seen tremendous growth since inception in 2008. When his son, Calum, was a freshman in high school, Calum was interested in playing rugby and as there were no local options, Andy set about starting up the club with just a few interested kids. The club now offers opportunities for both boys and girls grades 1-12. The club membership grew several years ago with interest from many Polynesian families and Andy quickly saw the benefits of getting these kids involved; some who might otherwise not have the opportunity to participate in sports. Like all of the other current players, he could offer these kids the healthful benefits that come with being physically active and being part of a team.
“They see athletes that look like them and it boosts their confidence that they can play the game, too.”
“In my opinion, The Pacific Islander culture may not always put such an emphasis on girls playing sports compared to their brothers and those who do participate have the added benefit of avoiding any risk of childhood obesity and other health risks that are often attributed to inactivity. Many of the girls that come to us have never played sports, and so we are starting from scratch in building their confidence.” Andy makes sure to share photos of current Polynesian rugby players with the girls. “They see athletes that look like them and it boosts their confidence that they can play the game, too.” To ensure that the teams are fit enough to play competitively, both the girls and boys squads in recent years have encouraged Andy and the other coaches to add more general fitness activities to the program and it has paid off! During the last few years, the Highlanders have won state championships, had players playing for the USA High School National teams, and on graduation, many players have gone on to play successfully in colleges throughout the country or remained active in local adult clubs.
Andy is sensitive to the hurdles that some of his players’ families have in keeping their kids involved in the club and has been very thoughtful about making it as easy as possible on the parents. “All the kids practice at the same time, on the same field, so parents don’t have to juggle multiple rides for their kids. We encourage all the kids in a family to play, and offer a sibling discount because many of our families have multiple kids.” In fact, the club does not turn away any players for lack of being able to pay registration fees, and although they hold an annual fundraiser to offset costs, Andy and his wife have at times, had to dip into their own savings to cover players’ fees and pay bills associated with field rentals and other league costs.
“Since we found out about the Pass program, we can now pay all of our bills on time, and it has removed so much stress knowing that we have that support! We have also been able to dedicate more funds to equipment and feel like the parents and kids have more dignity since they are contributing to the club through the Pass.”
Now that his son is grown and no longer a student-athlete, why does Andy continue to coach these kids? “It keeps me young,” he says! “And I have seen the incredible opportunities that some of the kids have had through playing rugby. Many of our players have had college scholarships, and some of them come back to help me coach. I have so many stories about how playing sports has benefited these kids!”
Thank you, Andy, for your dedication and commitment to giving kids the experience of playing sports, and the benefits that come along with participation. We appreciate all that you do!
– Every Kid Sports
Photography credit: Maria Valencia Photography