Illini Rugby Outreach Initiative

The University of Illinois men have been hosting a Summer Skill Series, and wrapped up the summer in Naperville. After the success of a pilot program held at Morton West High School two weeks earlier, the Illini set up shop in Naperville; hosted by Neuqua Valley High School Rugby. The second iteration opened participation up to High School boys. Illinois Head Coach, Joseph Rasmus, led the the breakdown-focussed session. As Rasmus provided instruction, Tim Walsh of the CARFU Referee Society provided participants information on relevant laws.

Rasmus remarked, “The enthusiasm and drive of all the boys who joined us Sunday was tremendous! Our program hopes to be more involved in the community. With the growth of rugby opportunities in the United States, we want our program to be a stepping stone for young men in Illinois on their way to senior club and professional careers.” The University of Illinois is currently the only D1A program in the state of Illinois and competes in the Big Ten Universities Rugby Conference.

Beyond rugby, the high school participants were able to gain insights about college life as several Illinois players stuck around afterwards to answer their questions. Rasmus added, “While we would love for all of these young men to continue their rugby careers with us after high school, we see our most important job is supporting them in gaining access to and pursuing a first-rate college education.”

Coach Rasmus presented a number of scholarship and financial aid opportunities offered at the University of Illinois and available to rugby players including:

The Avery Brundage Scholarship – A scholarship awarded to University of Illinois students with high levels of scholastic and amateur athletic achievement in high school.

The Illinois Commitment – All instate University of Illinois students who come from a household with $61k or less in annual income receive free tuition.

The Bartek “Senator” Czernikiewicz Rugby Scholarship – An annual scholarship awarded to a University of Illinois rugby player at the end of his first year.

“There were so many positives from the day,” Rasmus concluded. “But I think what really made it great for me was to see all the boys from different clubs and communities – some traveling from as far away as Springfield – coming together with an eagerness to learn and make new friends. Rugby is a game built upon a community and we are strongest when we are sharing, collaborating, and working together. It is because of events like these that I love this game. We at the University of Illinois hope to be able to put on many more similar events!”