The Axemen Rugby Club is back at it for a new season, with some highlights including a more competitive men's division, an expanded youth division and free women's programming.
Speaking on Sept. 9, Blake Mahovic, the club's director of rugby, said that registration for the association is open for men, women and youth.
The youth program is expanding to allow children and teens up until the under-16 division a chance to play.
At the same time, the men's rugby division is seeing some pretty substantive changes as well. One of the men's teams has been promoted to first division, meaning the group has been deemed skilled enough to take on stiffer competition.
First division is second only to the premier division, which has stringent requirements about field size. At the moment, Axemen can't meet those regulations, because they don't have their own facilities.
"That is the top that we're able to go into right now. And it's a pretty serious level of competition," Mahovic said.
At the same time, there is still a men's team competing in the third division, which affords more casual players the chance to test themselves.
Women's programming is also available, and, at the moment, is free.
At this time, this division of the club is not so focused on competition but is rather devoting its attention to exercise, fitness, social bonds and general well-being.
"It's not competition based; it's more like a fitness and skills thing, which is just like an awesome community resource for anyone who's wanting to get out and meet people," said Mahvoic. "They're free right now. So that's a really great way for people just to get out and get to know each other."
Community touch rugby is another program that's being run for free.
However, Mahovic said that as much as possible, the club will cover whatever costs people cannot afford to pay for any of the programs, as the organization does not want financial circumstances to be a barrier.
"If the family is in a position where they don't have those funds available, we always make that free," he said. "So yeah, that's pretty big for us at the moment."
The club is also looking for opportunities to do outreach programs.
"We've been running school outreach programs," said Mahovic. "We're actually looking for more schools to partner with at the moment where we are able to offer subsidized or, depending on the programming, free programming to schools."
He added the club is also seeking to expand mental health initiatives.
The club is aiming to partner with BC Rugby to put together some mental health programming in November, Mahovic said.
Previously, the group made a well-received video advocating for mental health back when COVID lockdowns were in full effect. The group also hosted a suicide prevention workshop.
"[We're] really hoping this year to expand that," said Mahovic.
"So looking at that partnership with BC Rugby and doing something on a provincial level in terms of content creation. And then also inside Squamish, we're hoping to put on some free or donation-based programming within Squamish around health and mental health in that month of November as well."
He said the programs would be available for everyone, not just rugby players.