The Bow Valley Grizzlies are back on the pitch at Mitford Ponds for another season of rough-and-tumble rugby.
The club’s men’s and women’s teams have already had a few indoor training sessions, but April 25 marked the official start of the season, and athletes are diving right in with their first tournament just days away.
“The girls have worked really hard and really well for us to get ready for Jasper this weekend,” said women’s head coach Matty Bouchard of the April 30 Jasper 7s Tournament.
“It’s really awesome to get outside and get the athletes out — our numbers are much better this year,” he said. “Currently we’re sitting at nine registered players and registration will be open all season long.”
Last year, the women’s team practiced alongside the men due to low registration. Bouchard hopes that in his first season coaching the women’s group, they can establish a larger team.
About three or four of the athletes are returning players from last year and the rest are either new to Cochrane, new to the sport, or both.
“Rugby, compared to every other sport I’ve ever played, is at all levels the most inclusive, most welcoming, and has the best culture out there,” said Bouchard. “When you’re part of a rugby club, you are part of a family.”
Participation on the men’s team is looking strong and registration will remain open for prospective players all season as well, according to head coach Tyler Hawes.
“Anybody that wants to come out is more than welcome to come out and fire it up with us,” he said.
Currently, the team has about 20 athletes and the head coach said he’s confident about the season ahead.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see what we have the next couple weeks coming into the outdoor sessions with a regular schedule, but I’m feeling pretty optimistic about it.”
The whole club’s season was broken up with fewer games last year due to COVID-19, including the men’s, women’s, junior’s and the youth teams.
Hawes said being able to have a full season again is huge — both for player and team development and for the socialization aspect the sport brings.
“That social piece is probably as big a part off the pitch as it is on the pitch for rugby,” said the coach. “That’s huge with our club and for the sport in general, so I think we’re all really looking forward to that.”
This year, the Bow Valley Rugby Club also welcomed U5 athletes to join in on the fun with the launch of their new program under the minis division.
The co-ed U5 program has already capped out with 10 athletes enrolled, said Maria Berjian, vice-president of the minis division.
The creation of the program was a “beautiful accident,” according to Berjian.
“We talked about it for quite a while and we have quite a few people within the club who have younger kids,” she said. “We also noticed that to get kids to go into the U7, it’s nice to have a little starter program where we can take just a few and have kids move up into the next program.”
There is still some room left to register in co-ed U7 and lots of room for the co-ed U9 program, Berjian added.
The minis programs are designed as non-contact tag rugby. From U11 and up, in the junior, men’s and women’s divisions, more physical contact comes into play.
The men’s and women’s teams practice twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 p.m., and play in the Calgary Rugby Union’s Social league. Games are typically held on Saturdays, with an average of about 10 to 12 match-ups per season.
New to this year is an outdoor adult co-ed recreational touch rugby program beginning May 6, open to all skill levels. For a fee, participants meet at the pitch weekly to play in a fun, social and learning atmosphere.
The club is also hosting two Try Rugby Days, on May 1 for U18 athletes and May 8 for adults. All ages and skill levels are invited to come out and join in on training exercises and participate in a game of touch rugby at the Mitford Ponds Playing Fields.
Anyone interested in volunteering with the club’s mini and junior programs is encouraged to sign up to help manage the number of athletes enrolled. Rugby or coaching experience is preferred, but not necessary.
To register for a team or learn more about the club’s opportunities, visit bowvalleyrugby.com.