Santa Barbara Stingrays Youth Rugby: A League of Volunteers

Santa Barbara Stingrays Youth Team

Santa Barbara Stingrays Youth Team

 

The spirit of volunteerism is vibrant and growing at the Santa Barbara Rugby Association.

With the rapidly expanding Stingray youth league, as well as the Grunion Men, various college teams, Fossil Old Boys, and men and women’s club teams, there are many wonderful and passionate volunteers spearheading this sport’s venture into mainstream popularity and success.

Rugby, a growing team sport in America, is now accessible to the youngsters of the Santa Barbara community. It is the latest sport to be admitted into the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and is now considered a NCAA sport.

Behind the scenes at the Santa Barbara Stingrays youth league, there is a group of volunteers who have been contributing their time, energy and coaching skills to this developing team. Over the last two years, the Stingrays formed an association rallying all the local clubs together to form the Santa Barbara Rugby Association. The organization, led by President Ken Jacobsen, serves as an umbrella for all of the other local teams/clubs and helps facilitate the many fundraising efforts in the community, like having the Grunion Men run a taco booth at Fiesta and the Santa Barbara Beer Festival held at Elings Park.

Santa Barbara Grunion players Josh and Isaac Hirsch, right, served as volunteer ambassadors at the Santa Barbara Beer Festival, one of the rugby association's largest annual fundraisers.

Santa Barbara Grunion players Josh Malouf, left, and Isaac Hirsch, right, served as volunteer ambassadors at the Santa Barbara Beer Festival, one of the rugby association’s largest annual fundraisers.

VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH


Pacific Western Bank in Santa Barbara

This monthly series is made possible by Pacific Western Bank

Presidio Sports and Pacific Western Bank have partnered to recognize important volunteer work in the local sports community. This monthly spotlight series is our way of thanking those that selflessly give themselves for the benefit of many. To all volunteers making a difference, we salute you.


Head Coach Forrest Galante on the field

Head Coach Forrest Galante on the field

Starting this year, the association will be accepting sponsorships, logos, banners, and tents to raise money to keep up with growing demand. The league continues to accelerate with each season and as of now the “league of volunteers” are donating their time, energy and coaching skills.

As Forrest Galante, the head coach for the Stingrays, explains, “It is essentially a start-up program right now, all volunteers, and we really do the fundraising for new equipment, All-Star tryouts, tournaments, and to provide more opportunities to the kids who want to excel, flourish, and get scholarships for college level.”

High school players are being scouted for scholarships to play on college teams. A few past players received Rugby scholarships to BYU, Berkeley, SDSU, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Galante also mentions, “Players get to know kids from all different schools in this league and make lasting friendships.”

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The Santa Barbara Stingrays Youth Rugby started its fourth season with training in November and games beginning in January. The season will go through March and will play ten games. The youth league now offers five age-group teams with U-18, U-16, U-14, and U-12 divisions. They practice Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 pm to 6:30 pm at the upper field at Elings Park, which is now their official rugby field. Players from age 10 through high school are all encouraged to join and to play. The groups are trained by age and skill. Players get to experience the true sport of rugby in a safe and controlled environment.

As third year player J.J., “The Wrecking Ball,” shares, “There are big opportunities in playing rugby. It is a great team and I have goals to be on the All-Star team and play in college.”

One player who is being scouted for college, Tommy, has already been to the All-Stars and is the team’s “8th Man,” which is rugby’s equivalent to a quarterback.

Stingrays in Action!

Stingrays in Action!

 

Stingrays are still accepting new players throughout this season. They have over 80 signed up and playing currently and hope to have over 100 by the end of this season. To join a team, club dues are $200, which include a practice jersey, membership to USA Rugby and the Central Coast Youth Rugby Association and covers the costs for all games, tournaments, and referees. Scholarships are available.

 

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Galante is one of many volunteers that makes the program run successfully. Forrest came to the Stingrays because he knew and had played with Association Director Darin Siegel.

“The youth league couldn’t run without coaches like Forrest, we all grow from the youth and vitality he brings to the coaching staff. He has been involved over the last 3.5 years and taken on quite a bit of ownership,” Siegel says.

Dr. Richard Lotz drives down from Medford, Oregon every week to coach, train, and provide medical advice to the young players.  Robert Hann has also been pivotal in assisting the younger teams grow and thrive. Nick Conn (a UCSB and Grunion player) and Isaac Hirsch (former youth player and current Grunion) have joined the ranks in the coaching staff this year and are transitioning from players to coaches.  Dr. Gallivan and Dr. Montgomery also volunteer their time and resources to help this young team flourish. In addition to that lineup of volunteers, they also have a coaching educator and USA Eagle Coach Kevin Battle from Santa Barbara City College.

As Siegel illustrates, “The rugby community of Santa Barbara has grown into a large family. The “patriarch” of this local rugby family in Santa Barbara is the man, the myth, the legend “Judge”  Greg Smales who organizes the men’s club and runs the infamous concession stand where the finest hot dogs and brats are served for our social after each match.”

Indeed there is definitely a fun, social element to the sport and the games at Elings Park. Some people even purchase “social memberships” due to the lively BBQ atmosphere after each game, complete with food and fun for the whole family.

Check out this 2015 Promo Commercial for Youth Rugby:

For more information or to sign your child up today please contact:

Head Coach: Forrest Galante  forrestgalante@gmail.com

Skills Coach: Robert Hann  robert.hann@hp.com

Director/Manager: Darin Siegel  DCS4595@gmail.com

 

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