CHICO — The Chico Police Officers Association donated $500 Saturday to the Chico Oaks Youth Rugby program.
The rugby program has grown from two teams about three years ago to six teams now, said Peter Durfee, a police officer and the president of the police union. The association has donated more than $3,500 to the rugby players.
The money goes to making the experience inexpensive for the players, and is spent on jerseys, field maintenance and the home team barbecues, which are a part of the sport.
After matches, both teams get together and the captains choose two “men of the match,” one forward and one back who performed best during the competition, and afterward the home team provides food for both squads, said Mitch Jagoe, the director of the youth rugby program.
It”s a highly competitive sport that still stresses sportsmanship, Jagoe said.
“Any one of my players, if you asked them, they”d go play for the other team,” he said when one of the visiting teams was short players and Chico players filled in.
“Our philosophy is to come out and have fun and learn the game of rugby as you”re doing it,” he said.
The Chico program has six teams, one for kids under 8 years old, the Acorns, one for kids under 10, the White Oaks, and under-12 team, the Gray Oaks, a middle school team, the Red Oaks, and two high school teams, the boys who call themselves the Black Oaks and the girls, the Wild Oaks.
“Every year, we have a group of brand new girls,” said Wild Oaks coach Ashley Bocast. “We teach them everything, how to hold the ball, how to run with the ball, how to kick and pass the ball.”
Any beginner can join the team, Bocast said.
The rugby program is always looking for players. The nonprofit organization also accepts donations at its website, www.chicorugby.org.
Zach Lehor said he has been playing rugby since the program began when he was a 9-year-old.
Now 13, Lehor is a member of the Red Oaks.
Another Red Oaks player, Jeff Peterson, 14, injured a finger during a match Saturday and tried to keep playing.
Josh Addington, 14, said he had played soccer as well as rugby but enjoyed rugby more.
“You get to tackle people,” he said. “It”s just more physical.”
Reach Dan Reidel at 896-7761, email@example.com, or on Twitter @dan_reidel.