The US Rugby Foundation’s Make a Pitch Program assists youth rugby organizations that need financial help to allow them to finish or improve their playing grounds. Needs vary by organization, so the Foundation wants to be able to provide organizations around the United States specific equipment that they need to be successful.
The Ellensburg Youth Rugby program started in the fall of 2019 thanks to former CWU Alumni and Cascade Rugby Union President Chris Nesmith. The area was prime for a youth rugby program in Ellensburg, WA, home of the Men’s Varsity Central Washington University Rugby Club, and top 6th rugby program in the country. Chris connected with Bob Ford, former Central Washington Rugby Coach, to share his vision. From there, Chris and Bob worked hard to establish Youth Rugby in the city of Ellensburg, to follow the success of the CWU rugby team.
First things first, they had to find a pitch. They approached the City Parks and Recreation Director, Brad Case, and managed to secure an abandoned baseball pitch that the rugby club could use for practice. In the Winter of 2019, Ellensburg Youth Rugby was officially launched and the team held its first practice in March of 2020 right before the start of the pandemic.
Before the start of the 2021 season, Chris formed a connection with the United States Rugby Foundation. The Foundation was immediately interested in how they could support Ellensburg Youth Rugby through the “Make a Pitch” program and inquired about their needs. Ellensburg Youth Rugby is just one example of how the Foundation can improve playing grounds for rugby teams across the United States and continue to grow grass roots rugby. Thanks to the Foundation, and their “Make a Pitch” program, Ellensburg Youth Rugby received:
Additional support from the City Parks and Recreation and its director helped the team in their journey to transform the abandoned baseball field into a rugby pitch. In March of 2021, they helped remove the base plugs, home plate, and pitchers mounds, while replacing them with goal posts. The City Parks Department also allowed the team to host matches at Rotary Park, where competitions were held on 3 different pitches for 3 separate age groups (U12, U14, and HS). These events sparked the kids’ interest in rugby even more.
The Youth Program had other sponsors that helped with the pitch as well, including Winegar’s Coffee & Creamery and Reecer Creek Excavating. Thanks to the funds provided by these two businesses, the team was able to remove the backstops and dugouts, and Reecer Creek Excavating even laser-leveled the pitch and assisted with post installation. Ellensburg Youth Rugby also received $10,000 from the City of Ellensburg Parks Partnership Program, which will allow them to install a new sprinkler system by next year.
The city of Ellensburg Parks and Recreation Department will continue to provide care for the rugby field for many years to come. They will provide mowing, watering, irrigation repairs, garbage service, and general maintenance of the facility. The improvements the team are making are in partnership with the city of Ellensburg, allowing them to have priority use of the field space as they continue to improve and develop the facility from a baseball venue into a rugby pitch.
Overall, the help that the team received from the Foundation’s “Make a Pitch” program, and the local community, made the vision of Ellensburg Youth Rugby a reality and encouraged the kids’ passion for the sport. Many parents were touched by their kids practicing on a ‘real’ pitch and witnessing the camaraderie that the sport nurtures.
“It will be amazing to have an actual field with equipment. Not only will it help the kids who are playing, but it will also help build the sport in Ellensburg. The field is located in the middle of two parks, all of the soccer fields, and all of the baseball fields. People will notice the field and wander over. I think the growth of the sport will be huge!”
“There’s something about having an actual field and professional equipment that makes a team a team. It tells the players we also value what they value. I believe it will unite them as a team!”
“Our family was thrilled to hear about the new pitch and the other equipment that the Foundation has been able to offer. It really helped motivate them when they first received a rugby ball from the club. It was fun seeing them toss the ball around together. Having a new pitch to play on will be such fun for the kids and will be a source of pride for them.”