Tackling something new: Eclectic group of Yukon high schoolers give rugby a try
It's a Monday afternoon and about 30 students are tossing rugby balls back and forth in the main atrium at F.H. Collins high school in Whitehorse.
The teenagers are part of a new rugby program at the school. And for many of them, it's uncharted territory as they've never played a high school sport or been part of a team before.
That much is evident as they learn to give and take a tackle safely before crashing on the blue mats scattered on the floor below them.
"The sports that we have here, basketball and volleyball, they've never really appealed to me," said Grade 12 student Lukas Temple. "When I heard there was rugby, I was super pumped."
They now feel more like they are part of the school - Andy Todd, coach
Temple isn't alone in his excitement for the game.
Rugby has become one of the most popular options for students at the school when it comes to sport.
The game has become such a draw that the only indoor space available for the players is the school's main atrium. Walk into the school on a Monday afternoon and you walk right into rugby practice.
The sport's popularity has been a pleasant surprise for teacher and coach Andy Todd.
"A lot of these students aren't in any other sports," said Todd. "Just knowing some of these guys, it has made a huge difference in their school work, they now feel more like they are part of the school."
Todd, whose son Charlie is on the team, says another appealing aspect of the sport is that it has allowed some students to find a suitable place to channel some aggression.
"You can really let it go," said Todd. "The more aggressive you are, the more committed you are, the better it is for our team."
Mackenzie Keefer is one of the newest to pick up the sport.
The Grade 12 student only started playing last month but has quickly fallen in love with the game.
"I'm an aggressive person so it's nice to have a sport where that's more embraced instead of discouraged," said Keefer. "I don't like cardio so it's a way to disguise the cardio when you are running around and having fun."
Charlie Todd is the youngest member of the new rugby group and one of the smallest. The Grade 8 student doesn't even attend the school but was invited by his dad, coach Andy.
"I said I would give it a shot and I really like it," said Charlie. "In other sports there are a lot of dry moments but in rugby it's non-stop action."
Charlie says he also likes the new confidence the sport has given him.
"I'm no longer scared as much of painful stuff," he said. "Like I used to really not do jumps while downhill skiing, but now after rugby it doesn't really matter."
Imogen Resch grew up playing touch rugby in Dubai. The Grade 9 student loves the physicality and thrill that comes with now being able to tackle.
"I love that part and think it's great and just toughens you up," said Resch. "I also really enjoy the sport because it makes you really think and use those cognitive skills along with needing to be technical and use your strength."
Resch is also a fan of how varied the group of Whitehorse players is.
"It truly is super diverse," said Resch. "There are honestly all kinds of people here from all different backgrounds."
This eclectic group will put their new passion and love for the game to the test soon. In May, they head to Calgary for their first tournament.
"These kids have never played much competitive sports and now they are going away to a tournament representing the Yukon," said coach Todd. "It's phenomenal."