At the end of last year, Paul Lynch set out to create the largest youth rugby league in California. This year, according to his estimates, he will likely reach that goal.
Lynch, a native of Belfast, Ireland who grew up playing rugby, said he has signed up about 100 participants for the second season of his American Youth Rugby League. Add the 75 players that will be merging with his new league from an extant association in Los Gatos, and Lynch is halfway there.
If he gets 350 participants, he said he will have the largest youth rugby organization in the state. Because enrollment only just began, Lynch is confident he will reach that number.
"There's not enough youth rugby in our area," said Lynch, who lives in Mountain View. He explained that there are more rugby leagues in the North Bay and East Bay, and that until now, parents had to drive long distances if their youngsters were interested in playing the sport -- which is often described as a combination of football and soccer.
Lynch said the league, which he co-founded with fellow rugby enthusiast Tom Trill, is not only growing in numbers, but that the players have also come a long way in just one year. This year he feels his league will be ready to participate in a tournament held in the Sacramento area. To conclude the season, Lynch plans to take all of the league's teams -- he hopes for 20 squads of about 15 players each -- to the tournament.
He said rugby is a fun sport that is easy to learn and not as dangerous as people often think. The younger participants in his league play touch or flag rugby, for starters. But even when the kids get into full-contact play, he said injuries are not too common. That's because players are penalized for above-the-waist tackles and are instructed to tackle by the legs and from the side, instead of head on.