Falcons rugby awaits possible CIF sport recognition

In their 10-year history, the Falcons rugby team has won the Southern California Championship five times. Last year, the team brought home a State Championship title. And in a few months, they could be named an official school sport at TPHS, a title that comes with CIF status.

“We have established great working relationships with [TPHS] leadership, the athletic department, and the TPHS Foundation. Rugby is now following the process undertaken by girls’ flag football for CIF approval,” Coach David Pool said. “The status of winning the [state] championship is the highest it can get … it has certainly caused families that may not have considered rugby, to consider it an option.”

While it may not be offered as a CIF sport, rugby has gained popularity over the past 10 years at TPHS. The boy’s team, which operates as a club team on campus, currently has a roster of more than 30 TPHS students.

Despite their success without CIF recognition, rugby’s status as a club brings disadvantages — chief among them being a lack of field space, according to players.

While the team uses the stadium field for games, they often practice on “the patch,” the field next to the weight room, which is much smaller than the stadium field and lacks proper equipment, like goalposts.

“We are lucky there have not been any injuries because of the field” Bryce Simon (11), a lock, said.

Kai Caulfield (12), a flanker, agreed.

“We barely get to use the actual field for practice,” he said.

Additionally, practices run late into the evening, with players sometimes on the patch until 9:30 p.m.

If rugby were to attain CIF status, each high school in the district would be able to have a team.

However, with additional teams come additional field space requirements; rugby would need to be assigned a season and other teams would need to accommodate a shift in schedule, according to TPHS Principal Rob Coppo.

“Rugby has been operating as if it’s one of our teams, in good faith. Adding a field sport at a school like TPHS is tricky regarding field space,” Coppo said.

The addition of girls’ flag football as a CIF sport further limits field space.

However, field space is not the only change rugby could undergo. Because the team currently operates as a club sport, there is a cost to play. Recently, the TPHS Foundation has worked with the rugby coaches to help cut costs. Despite these challenges, the Falcons rugby team maintains “a very positive environment,” according to Pool.

“We get on with the job and focus on managing the things we can control,” Pool said. “The field situation is out of our control.”

As the Falcons continue to push for CIF status, the community has been working hard to help them gain more recognition. Recently, the team partnered with key rugby stakeholders — including USA Youth and High School Rugby, Major League Rugby, and USA Rugby — to ensure student-athletes can have sufficient resources to successfully launch rugby as a CIF sport.

“We have a community that is incredibly financially supportive, and not everyone has that luxury,” Coppo said.

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