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Gridley Herald - Gridley, CA
  • Students get a taste of rugby

  • Robert Salaber was invited to Sycamore and Wilson School to introduce the sport to students through an introductory Rugby PE curriculum developed by the Northern California Youth Rugby Association (NCYRA).
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  • Rugby is an international sport, second only to soccer, with more than 100 countries worldwide competing at all levels. The competitive nature of the sport ranges from non-contact, touch rugby for younger players to full competitive, professional rugby at the Men’s Club and International level. It is extremely popular in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, South America, and Europe. It is also one of the fastest growing sports in America, and it has now made its way into our community. Although the inaugural season of Gridley Youth Rugby does not begin until December, the students of Sycamore and Wilson schools got an early taste of the sport on Monday afternoon. Gridley Youth Rugby was established to promote the sport of rugby in our area, and kids are four times more likely to play a sport if they play it in P.E. class first. With that in mind, Robert Salaber was invited to Sycamore and Wilson School to introduce the sport to students through an introductory Rugby PE curriculum developed by the Northern California Youth Rugby Association (NCYRA). Salaber is the President and part-time Executive Director of the NCYRA, one of the largest State Based Rugby Organizations in the United States with 4,700 players, 500 coaches, 75 Clubs and 250 teams. The students were briefed on the history of the sport, introduced to the ball, and instructed on how to catch and pass. They took part in a number of lead-up games, such as relay races with the ball, passing in a circle, Rugby Freeze Tag, USA Eagles (similar to the classic Sharks and Minnows), and Ultimate Rugby. With the Gridley Youth Rugby beginning on December 4, Salaber was invited to visit Gridley to introduce the sport in order to encourage the local youth to give the sport a try. Both girls and boys are encouraged to sign-up for Gridley Youth Rugby, which includes two age groups: U-10 (Age 8 or 9) and U-12 (Age 10 or 11). Practices will take place on Wednesday and Friday evenings, beginning on December 4. Games begin in mid-January and conclude on March 15. The deadline to register is Friday, November 29. On Monday, October 28, Gridley Youth Rugby will hold their first informational meeting from 6-830pm at the Gridley Recreational Department Building at Vierra Park. This meeting will just be informational, and no commitment is required. For more information about Gridley Youth Rugby, call 370-6813 or email gridleyyouthrugby@gmail.com. Salaber is a lifelong rugby enthusiast with over 20 years of coaching experience. But like most coaches in any sport, he started out playing the game. Salaber played fullback for Redwood High School’s rugby team in 1981 and 1982, winning the USA Rugby (USAR) High School National Championship both years. Upon graduating high school, he attended the University of California at Berkeley, playing fullback and center for the Bears from 1983 to 1987. In his final year at Berkeley, Salaber was named Vice-Captain and Collegiate All-American. During his tenure at UC Berkeley, Salaber helped his team pick up three USAR Collegiate National Championship titles (1983, 1985, and 1986). After graduating from Berkeley in 1987, he travelled to New Zealand to play for the Takapuna Rugby Club before returning to Berkeley in late 1988. Upon his return, Salaber joined the Old Blues Rugby Club until 1990. During the 1989 season, his team finished third in the USAR Division 1 Club Final Four. After leaving the Old Blues Rugby Club, Salaber briefly played fullback for the Sacramento Rugby Club until joining the Ashton Rugby Club where he served as an assistant coach for the Backs during the 1992 season. From there, Salaber headed to UC Davis where he would serve as head coach from 1993 to 2002. Salaber’s Aggies finished within the Top 10 teams in the nation during six of his ten years as head coach. On top of that, he coached a total of ten Collegiate All-Americans during his stay at UC Davis. Salaber has also worked as a coaching columnist, providing insight and instruction on coaching philosophy and techniques for Rugby Magazine, a national monthly publication. Salaber is the President and Head Coach for the Dixon Rugby Football Club. Since 2007, he has coached a total of seven High School All-Americans and one USA National High School Player of the Year. In 2012, his team was named the USAR High School National Champions. Salaber has also been a coach for the Sacramento Valley and Northern California Youth Rugby Association All-Star Teams since 2010. More than 20 players from these teams have been selected as All-Americans. He served as an assistant coach for the USAR High School All-American Camp in 2012, and he was selected as the Head Coach for the USAR All-American Stripes Team earlier this year. Among the many other positions, he is an International Rugby Board (IRB) and USA Rugby Certified Coach Instructor and has provided instruction to more than 400 coaches from Men's to Youth levels throughout dozens of coaching courses since 2011.
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