New York, NY – Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science and Engineering in their inaugural year playing rugby have won the NYC’s Public School Athletic League Rugby 7’s Championship in both the Boys A division and the Girls B division. Why is this story important you may ask, well it is close to home for the staff of RWU, who have played for New York Rugby Club at one time or another, whether as a club member or just visiting. As the head coach of C.S.S is a New York Rugby Club member and it highlights the potential that rugby has in the US, we wanted to share it with our readers.
It wasn’t until February of 2013 that the players from C.S.S. picked up their first rugby ball when their coach Harold DeLucia had them learning to pass and tackle in a small patch of grass behind the projects in Harlem. Snowing, wet and cold, the kids bought in and dug deep to learn from DeLucia, a veteran at coaching successful high school programs.
RWU: Having coached the New York Rugby Club’s U-19 program the previous two years, was it hard to resign and take on this new team?
DeLucia: It was one of the hardest things, saying goodbye to the boys I helped mold into quality rugby players and respectful young men. I loved my time with NYRC and will undoubtedly be back in some form in the near future. Captaining the men’s A side and coaching the U-19’s was a lot on my plate and the opportunity to get the ball into even more kids hands was all the motivation I needed.
RWU: After seeing success with the NYRC U-19’s, what made you switch?
DeLucia: Being accepted to Columbia University- Teachers College for my Masters in Health Education made the switch to teaching at Columbia Secondary that much easier with its close proximity. Coming into a school such as C.S.S. with such high academic standards, many of the students had no outlet for sports between the rigors of the schools curriculum and extracurricular academic ventures at Columbia University.
RWU: Is this the first school-based team you started?
DeLucia: At my first school in Brownsville, Brooklyn we started a team but eventually due to my commitments captaining the NYRC Men’s Side and knowing how amazing the NYRC U-19 program was, brought to fruition by Lisa Lake and Annie Collier, it seemed like the perfect fit to combine both programs. The thing I love to do, is get the ball into as many hands as possible. My first team I helped start was the Rensselear Dragons of the Capital District Youth Rugby league in Albany. There we had maybe 20-25 kids at training both boys and girls, many times we couldn’t even have proper practices with such low numbers. I left that team to take the teaching job in Brooklyn, a year later the Rensselear girls went to the NY State Championships. I was so happy for them and knew then, that all I have to do is leave a special type of passion for the game installed into the fabric of my players hearts and they will continue to enjoy everything rugby offers with or without me.
RWU: Besides winning the city championship in your first year at C.S.S., what has been some of your proudest moments as a coach?
DeLucia: My last school in Brooklyn where many kids are over-age and under-credited with the likelihood of aging out of high school by not graduating prior to their 21st birthday, two students made me the proudest I’ve ever been. This year, Anthony Cutler and Aaron Davis are both graduating high school. Anthony is becoming the 1st in his family to attend college and we are waiting to hear if Aaron has been offered a rugby scholarship as well, after a little over a year playing the game. I remember waiting next to the exit door making sure they went to practice and didn’t sneak out, now they will be attending college playing rugby, truly beautiful!
RWU: We will have part 2 of this interview for you tomorrow. We did want to take the time to wish Harold a happy birthday today.
That is it for today, tune in tomorrow for part 2 of the interview. In the meantime, feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats, @Mathew Drew Turner and @Ebstide52, respectively. And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs.