The disconnect between youth and society at large is a real problem throughout Belize, particularly in densely populated areas where there is little opportunity for employment, and community facilities and services are stretched to breaking point. With unused reserves of energy and a need to be doing something, many young people end up taking the wrong path contributing to high rates of street and gang crime. But a new sports project aims to change all that.
*The fastest growing sport in the world today is coming to Belize – Rugby Union is making its first appearance with the Hattieville United Youth Sports Club
*Belize is the last in the region to join the worldwide rugby family, as plans revealed to launch the sport nationwide under the Belize Rugby Board
*Campaign to sign up players for Belize’s first national rugby union and rugby sevens teams – looking ahead to the 2016 Olympics and 2018 Commonwealth Games
Under the catchy logo of ‘Community & Country’, Rugby Belize, a community-based sports project is being launched nationwide this summer aimed at offering rugby union as an alternative sport for energetic youth looking for something a little more challenging than soccer and basketball.
Rugby Belize Founder, Tony Gillings, claims the sport will do more than just be enjoyable “There have been many studies on the beneficial impacts that sport – any sport – has on the physical and psychological development of participants.” Says Tony, “However, rugby scores high on a range of issues; it is fun, helps build character and team spirit, encourages a healthy life-style and physical fitness. Rugby Belize is looking for players – men, women, girls and boys of all ages who would like to give it a go, no experienced necessary as we will have coaches on hand. Training events are planned throughout the country, and anybody interested should go to www.rugbybelize.com and make contact.”
Rugby has seen phenomenal growth in recent years, in part due its attractiveness from a spectators’ point of view with competitions around the globe attracting huge audiences, and the efforts of its global governing body (the International Rugby Board), who have invested relentlessly in player welfare, facility development and sponsorship. Yet even though it is hugely popular throughout the Caribbean and Central America it has never been formally established in Belize. That is about to change with the launch of ‘Rugby Belize’.
Rugby Belize, under the auspices of the Belize Rugby Board, has already established links with rugby federations in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and further afield and plans are afoot to participate in international friendliness “as soon as we can” says Tony.
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The Belize Rugby Board will be affiliated with the National Sports Council and the Belize Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association, and will aim to achieve associate membership of the International Rugby Board (the global governing authority of rugby union) within two years. This will allow teams to represent Belize in a professional competitive capacity in rugby union, sevens and other appropriate events, regionally and further afield.
There are rugby authorities throughout Central America, including Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and El Salvador, and across the Caribbean. There are also two regional authorities: CONSUR – which organizes and manages competitions throughout South and Central America and NACRA, which looks after competitions in the North. Rugby Belize will seek to apply for membership of NACRA, but will be guided by the IRB.
Rugby Union is just one of a number of variants (codes) of the sport. Others are League, Sevens, Wheelchair and Underwater. Whilst Sevens comes under the auspices of rugby union, each of the other codes has a separate global governing authority, and the Belize Rugby Board aims to establish links with these to help in future development of the sport.
The Founder of Rugby Belize, Tony Gillings, is a keen rugby enthusiast, writer and works as an HR Consultant. He is currently based in Ireland but plans to relocate to Belize.