At the current growth rates, there could be as many as 1,000 people playing touch rugby in the Central Okanagan by 2020. - Image credit: Doug Manning

At the current growth rates, there could be as many as 1,000 people playing touch rugby in the Central Okanagan by 2020. - Image credit: Doug Manning

Rapid growth for touch rugby

As many as 700 players expected to play the sport this year in the Central Okanagan

Touch rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the Central Okanagan.

Starting with 15 youth players in 2010, the sport has grown quickly to more than 625 youth and adult players in 2016.

Local organizers predict that number will increase to more than 700 players this year.

“Touch rugby is a fast, fun, fitness-oriented game,” said George Curran, organizer of the Crows mini-rugby program. “It’s growth over the past few years has been phenomenal.

“The game is now featured in more than 15 local elementary schools in both Kelowna and West Kelowna, and is played by over 250 boys and girls in the spring and 150 men and women in the summer.”

Touch rugby is a simple game. The attacking team has six ‘touches’ to move down a 70-metre field, attempting to score a ‘try’ against their opponent. The defending team can stop the attacker with a one-hand touch. When the attacking team drops the ball, or their six touches are used up, the other team has a turn at being the attackers. The ball must be passed sideways or backwards, as in regular rugby. Games are 30 minutes long, males and females play together on mixed teams, and teams usually play two games a day.

“Our elementary programs, Crows mini-rugby program, and community touch rugby programs all begin in April,” said Curran. “In many SD23 elementary schools, the game is played by boys and girls in Grades 4 to 6.

“Boys and girls can register in our U6, U8, and U10 mini-rugby program and our U12/U14 Youth Touch League through the City of Kelowna Recreation Centre.”

Curran says the sport will continue to grow quickly in 2017.

“We expect more elementary schools to participate this spring,” he said. “Mini-rugby will continue to expand, parents call it the best recreational deal in Kelowna. With continued growth in our U12/U14 touch programs and more teams expected in our summer adult league, more than 700 players will play this fast-paced, fun, fitness-oriented sport this year.

“This puts us on pace for our goal of 1,000 Central Okanagan touch rugby players by 2020.”

For more information on the local rugby scene, email Central Okanagan Rugby Enthusiasts president Doug Manning at 4dougmanning@gmail.com.