The team began practicing in June when the president of the newly formed rugby committee, Daniel Perez, learned that the territory didn’t have an official rugby team despite a majority of other Caribbean islands playing and competing against one another.
There are currently about 15 men on the team, but Perez said that number grows every week. The team is excited to represent the Virgin Islands when they begin competing.
“There’s a position for any size man and woman out there in rugby because everyone has a very intricate part,” Perez said. “Although it is a contact sport, you’re really out there to sync each step and each play, and each play has its own little piece and every player has their own particular role.”
Perez is excited to get the community involved. He hopes the practices will serve as a wellness initiative, allowing people in the community to come out and have fun while they exercise. Several members of the community did in fact seem interested as passersby pulled over to watch the rugby practice.
Team secretary Scott McFarlane said the team will be ready to compete in the “near future,” but first they have to concentrate on the number of players. They need 15 men for the team, but approximately 30 players total in case others cannot attend practices or competitions.
Perez said the team is excited about the opportunity to compete with other rugby teams from around the Caribbean, including islands like Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands. Rugby has received more recognition since it recently became an Olympic sport. It will be implemented into the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro as sevens.
Although the team is for men 18 years old or above, Perez encourages everyone to come out and learn more about the sport. He said there has been a lot of interest in beginning an all-female team and that seems a very likely possibility. Perez noted that the team is also working with V.I. Montessori School and International Academy to begin a team for teenagers.
“The program is an opportunity for kids to enjoy more sports and more athletics, and to get them off the streets,” said Perez.
Perez said the team is starting off with the basics and players are still practicing “touch rugby” as they learn. Two teams from the British Virgin Islands, the Barbarians and the Arawaks, are visiting Aug. 16 to hold a clinic where they will teach the fundamentals of rugby as well as allow the team an opportunity to compete.
McFarlane noted his excitement at the chance to compete as the USVI team has already established a strong sense of camaraderie, evidence by the teammates sharing laughter and words of encouragement at practice.
Perez said there is excessive talent in the territory and he’s confident that they will provide a positive outlet for representing the Virgin Islands.
The team is currently working on nonprofit status.
The USVI Rugby Team meets at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays in front of Fat Turtle in Yacht Haven Grande for conditioning, and at 5:30 on Thursdays at Antilles School on the field for practice.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Daniel Perez at 941-565-0031 for more information.