A new sports event, the Rugby Paradise Smash Tournament, will bring new collegiate sports action to the territory in March and, according to organizers, help build some hype around the local rugby program, giving younger athletes an alternative to football or soccer.
The tournament, hosted by the USVI Rugby Football Union, will be held beginning at 10 a.m. March 25 at the University of the Virgin Islands’ St. Thomas campus. The field will include five college and U-23 teams from the mainland and British Virgin Islands, including Babson College and Bowdoin College and two USA Star’s Sevens teams.
There’s expected to be 60 competitors between the teams. Along with the tournament, the USVI Rugby Football Union will also host a week of events including beach rugby and a youth clinic. Teams will also participate in community service projects while on island through partnerships with My Brother’s Workshop, V.I. Marine Advisory Service and the Humane Society.
“We were originally approached by Babson College, whose coach said the rugby team wanted to come down for spring break training and since there were others interested too, we thought we would put on a tournament,” said Mark Grimes from the USVI Rugby Football Union. “We hope that this will be an annual event and a fundraiser for the union that can also spark some tourism interest, get more youth involved in rugby and inspire future teams to come and play in the Virgin Islands.”
Grimes said the organizer recently competed in Fort Lauderdale and is looking forward to games in Saint Barths and Puerto Rico.
“We’re doing great and we have a lot of interest, but the best thing we’ve done so far this year is a clinic at the V.I. Montessori School that we want to turn into a youth program across the island,” Grimes added. “The clinic was successful and we hope to see it grow. Kid are always looking for something else to do and football hasn’t always had the same traction as it’s had in previous years, and some kids also want an alternative to soccer so we hope to give them the opportunity to play something else.”
Rugby can involve both men and women, and be contact or non-contact, he added.
“There’s a rugby position for everyone on island,” Grimes said.
More information on the tournament is available online at www.rugbyparadisesmash.com