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HS Player Persuades School To Support Rugby

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HS Player Persuades School To Support Rugby

Charlie Rosemeyer, a happy Penn Hill HS sophomore, and with a Woodland Hills teammate last season seriously contemplating life. Photos courtesy Matt Rosemeyer.

Setting forth a game plan is a good idea when you're getting ready for a rugby game, but it can be useful in other ways, too—just ask Charlie Rosemeyer.

The high school sophomore grew up with rugby, and his love of the game led him to push for his current high school to sanction a team in the Rugby Pennsylvania league. But he knew it was going to take more than just asking nicely.

Rosemeyer's dad, Matt, has been heavily involved in rugby in the Pittsburgh area for many years, and when his kids were young, Rosemeyer the elder was working with inner-city youth mentoring programs coaching rugby.

"When Charlie got old enough he started going with me," said Matt. "There was no pressure from me, and we were going to a pretty tough neighborhood, but he loved it, and when his younger brother got old enough, they both came with me."

The Rosemeyer kids continued to love rugby, and when Charlie entered high school he continued to play, suiting up for Woodland Hills. But wanted to play for his high school, Penn Hills, and Penn Hills HS didn't have a rugby team of its own. So Charlie set about doing something about it.

"The Athletic Department already knew him because he immediately went into playing two sports each season," said Matt Rosemeyer.

In the fall it was golf and soccer, for example.

But again, it wasn't just a case of asking for rugby to be sanctioned.

"He did his homework," said Matt of his son. "He anticipated questions they might ask and we had an answer."

They contacted Dylan Hamilton the executive director of Rugby Pennsylvania, and Hamilton sent some printed materials about the game and the growth of high school rugby in the state. then they were ready to meet with the Penn Hill HS School Board.

"The main question they're going to have is: 'what will be the cost?'" said Matt Rosmeyer. They'd already taken care of that. The Pittsburgh Harlequins had donated the jerseys and most of the equipment was donated. All the school had to provide was field time.

They had answers for how the league is structured and had options for whether the team would be club or single-school—they opted for club for now until the program is strong enough to have the numbers on its own. In addition, being a club allows kids from schools without a team to play, and hopefully that sows the seed for those schools to start a team.

"They were very receptive to the idea," said Rosemeyer. "And that's because Charlie had answers to their questions."

They'd lined up a coach, they had the jerseys and equipment, they had names of 19 kids who had stated interest in playing for a team that didn't exist yet, and knew how they would register players and get them insured. So, mostly, it was a case of the school district to just say yes to field time. In the end, the Board unanimously supported a rugby team at Penn Hills HS, allotting field availability, and something extra.

According to a report by Triblive.com, the district will also spring for transportation to and from games.

“I think it shows that we support their interest and want to give them the resources to carry out those ideas,” District Athletic Director Stephanie Strauss told Michael Divittorio of TribLive.com.

It also didn't hurt that one member of the Penn Hills HS Board, Rob Marra, played rugby at MIT. 

Since the news has spread about the decision, several other rugby people have contacted Matt Rosemeyer to offer their services as coaches. 

"We've found that once you take that first step, there are a lot of people interested in helping," he said.

But the key lesson is that you need energy from inside the school, especially the students, and those students have to have answers to questions ready.  A good game plan is always useful.