Members of the Brown men's rugby team helped teach rugby workshops to middle school students on Pembroke field at last Wednesday's final session of a three-week collaboration between Brown rugby players and students at the Wheeler School.
Daniel Levine-Spound '12 helped organize the program with members of the Wheeler School's physical education department while volunteering with them earlier this semester.
At Wheeler, students in grades six through eight choose a sport to play for three weeks as part of an elective physical education program. This year, for the first time, rugby was offered along with basketball, mini tennis and weightlifting.
Levine-Spound and other members of Brown's team, including head coach David LaFlamme, attended a number of practices to teach the students the basics of rugby.
Last Tuesday was the fourth time the sixth grade class met to play, and Levine-Spound was joined by Greg Karwaski '11 and Michael Wharton '12.
Levine-Spound, Karwaski and Wharton stressed the value of teaching rugby to younger children. "Rugby has the same physical aspects as many other sports, but it's a bit more fluid, which makes it easier for kids to pick up," Levine-Spound said.
Students who start early have a noticeable advantage later on because rugby is offered at very few high schools — let alone middle schools — said Levine-Spound, Karwaski and Wharton.
Team members who have volunteered have enjoyed working with the kids, they said. "It's great to see them really progressing over only half an hour," Wharton said.
The program has met great enthusiasm at Wheeler, said Jean Carlson, head of Wheeler's physical education department. The sport is "more interactive for the students, so they get much more exercise," unlike a sport like football which has specific positions so that not every child gets to touch the ball, she said.
Out on the field, students were laughing but listening intently to their coaches' advice. Many students said the gym class was the best they had ever had and that the Brown students were all "super nice." Some of the middle schoolers said that they might continue rugby — but only after soccer or football — in high school.
Carlson said she and her colleagues are excited to work with the Brown athletes. In the future, she hopes that Wheeler might be able to "tap into Brown athletics a little more" and that the rugby program "may open up new opportunities with the other Brown sports teams."