Rugby and Respect
For two hours a week, members of the Pittsburgh Harlequins Rugby Football Association teach kids how to play the sport.
The youth mentoring program is a way to try to keep kids in violence-prone neighborhoods active and safe.
“I have been to seven funerals in 19 years,” laments couch and founder Sean Madden during an abbreviated practice.
Half of his team was missing this session at Hawkins Village in Braddock. Players were attending visitation for a slain teenager in their East Liberty housing community.
Such consequences keep Madden and the other volunteer coaches going. They've reached kids in Braddock, Larimer, Garfield and the Hill District.
“They love the attention and want to be a part of something — and it's fun!” Madden says. “I think it matters to see one or two kids with that sparkle in their eye.”
Throughout their 10-week season, the Harlequins introduce life lessons as they teach rugby, talking about accountability, responsibility, teamwork and the importance of school.
Many studies show a correlation between playing a team sport and success in school, and potentially, lower crime and teen pregnancy rates.
“It's a great equalizer,” Madden says, “as everybody comes in at the same point. ... Nobody has played the game before.”
Phil Pavely is a Trib Total Media photographer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.