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The 2008 Youth Conference on the Game: A Weekend to Learn, Play and Honor
Date:12/12/2008

your role in youth rugby, you could attend an alternate presentation. I found all the presentations highly relevant and the speakers were great," Anderson said. "The Positive Coaching Alliance workshop and the Physical Education Business Model presentation by Mark Van Trees were especially helpful regarding the proper follow-up after visiting area schools."

Honoring their Own

On Saturday night, December 6, Youth Conference participants took a break from workshops to recognize the honorable achievements of two of their peers: Ernie Vargas of the Hawaiian Gardens Rugby program and from Gonzaga High School, Lee Kelly.

Vargas, a soft-spoken gang prevention coordinator from the small Los Angeles area city of Hawaiian Gardens, was awarded the World Rugby Shop Award for Community Service for his active role in introducing a group of troubled adolescents to the game of rugby, diverting their intended pathway from the streets and possible gang life to the opportunities that can be found on a rugby pitch.

Initially, Vargas' intention had nothing to do with rugby. He was simply looking for an alternative outlet for middle and high school students who were bored in the flag football off-season. But the kids fell in love with the sport and since starting up the initial program of 16 kids two years ago, Vargas' rugby teams have now grown to 50 athletes that compete on both boy's and girls' sides around Southern California.

"These kids just love the game and they're learning. They're not the most disciplined team and I'm not the most experienced coach, but what I've learned about rugby is that it brings kids together like no other sport and it builds a bond that I think will last forever," Vargas said, proudly sporting his Hawaiian Gardens Eagles emblem on his shirt during his emotional acceptance speech.

"I want to tell you how excited I am to be invited here -- there is so
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SOURCE City of Glendale, Colorado
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