A rugby camp for Indigenous youth is coming up in Squamish on Nov. 5 and 6.
The Axemen Rugby Club are supporting the ISPARC/Squamish Nation — Totem Hall Rugby Camp, which will be held at the Quest University field.
The camp is open to youth between the ages of eight and 18 who are from Squamish Nation, other First Nations, or who are Inuit and Métis.
"We try to encourage [youth] to try sports and the introduction to new sports," explained Pete Natrall, the sport and physical activity co-ordinator for the Vancouver Coastal Region for ISPARC, or Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council.
There have been outstanding Squamish Nation rugby players over the years, including the award-winning Lyric Atchison, who played for the UBC Thunderbirds and on the Team Canada U20 Team at the 2019 Tri-Nations Cup.
But having a camp like this may introduce more Indigenous youth to the sport, Natrall said.
The camp is open to boys and girls and is free for the youth.
Natrall has played rugby himself and said what is great about it is where it can take you and what doors it can open.
"When I played rugby in high school many years ago, we had the opportunity to travel abroad and we took a spring break tour to San Francisco," he said.
Natrall said through ISPRC's relationship with BC Rugby and the Thunder Rugby, an Indigenous youth rugby program, the hope is more champions can be produced, like Phil Mack, retired Canadian rugby star from the Toquaht Nation.
"Phil Mack is amazing and he has played at the national level and he does work closely with Thunder rugby so there is an opportunity, I think, for kids to see that there are people like them that are doing great things and taking opportunities where rugby might open doors for them," he said.
The camp may spark an interest that will lead kids to pick up the sport at their school or with the Axemen, Natrall added.
"It provides the kids the access that might not normally have been there," he said.
He said there is the potential for this camp to be offered again as a multi-day or even multi-week course, if there is interest.
"We are really appreciative of Squamish Nation youth recreation at Totem Hall for being the host for this camp and taking the leadership.... recognizing that there might be some community interest in rugby and approaching ISPARC and saying, 'Can we work in collaboration with the Axemen," he said.
The youth just need a pair of turf-friendly runners and a water bottle to participate.
The Axemen's Cian Starogardzki said the upcoming two-day camp would pass on, in addition to the basic rules and skills of the game, the values of the Axemen and the sport: integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect.
Registration information can be found here: https://isparcbc.wufoo.com/forms/z1b8g77v0a7xhj2/