After years of mulling over the idea, former Patterson High varsity girls soccer head coach Cade Tomasegovich is now taking on the task of bringing the sport of rugby to Patterson High. His endeavor won’t be without challenges.

He played the sport of rugby for all four years of his time at Del Campo High School and dabbled in playing the sport at Sacramento State, before returning to coach the sport at Del Campo.

Tomasegovich explained that establishing the sport at Patterson High has been a challenging process.

The first step taken was to form a rugby club through ASB. Tomasegovich is also currently undergoing the process of becoming an established coach through USA Rugby, which he plans to have completed by this weekend. Once he is certified, Tomasegovich intends to begin expanding his sign-up process to recruit kids to the contact sport.

USA Rugby has been s the national governing body for the sport since 1975. The club has also been accepted into Rugby NorCal. Rugby NorCal is a USA Rugby-sanctioned youth organization that was founded in 2010. NorCal Rugby features an estimated 65 clubs and 5,000 players throughout the state. The ages range from 8-18 years. Rugby NorCal is the largest state rugby organization in the country.

“The ultimate goal is to establish rugby down in this part of the valley. Sac area, Bay area and Fresno all have high school rugby. This area is like a black hole. So by establishing our club first, I hope to be an example that other clubs can follow. I also want to have other schools around here create teams so that we can form our own league,” Tomasegovich said via email.

Tasked with not only building the program from the ground up, but also with finding teams to play, and lure other schools and potential players in the area to join in on the movement will be a challenging task for the fledgling Patterson rugby program.

Tomasegovich expressed uncertainty as to what the first year of the program’s experience may entail, but remains positive about the club’s future.

“I’m not exactly sure how easy/hard it will be to get matches this year. The rugby community is very supportive, and I am sure those that can will help us out during their preseason,” Tomasegovich said via email.

He explained that the goal is to play boys and girls rugby union (or 15-player rugby), but if needed, he expressed interest in breaking up the team into two groups to play rugby sevens (a modified version of the sport that features seven players instead of 15 and abbreviated 15 minutes of play time instead of 80 minutes).

Despite the challenges ahead, there has been plenty of support thrown behind Tomasegovich’s goal of bringing the sport to Patterson.

“It was a very positive initial reception of the club. We had a meeting and then had a table at “Club Day” to let people know about it,” he said. “The school has been very supportive both Principal (David) Smith and the athletic director (Rob Cozart) are fully behind this endeavor. Knowing that has helped a lot. Honestly, everyone that I have spoken with about getting this started has given me a positive response.”

The club currently meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays after school. Tomasegovich hopes to spread the rugby bug he caught playing the sport himself in high school.

“I played in high school. It is an amazing sport. Truly, like no other... I have played quite a few different sports in my life, and rugby is (by far) my favorite. It suited me perfectly. More importantly, I know what a positive it was for me as a young man. I learned a whole new level of respect, sportsmanship and a way to be. Many students at our school havent had too much direct experience with the sport, so this club is a way to introduce the sport as well as give them the opportunity to play it.”

Starting out as a club has allowed several students to dabble their feet in the sport. Some expressed uncertainty about actually playing, but they all want to be part of the process of growing the sport at Patterson High.

Junior David Lara explained that his cousin plays rugby at other schools and was excited to hear that the sport was coming to Patterson.

“My cousin actually played. I get a lot of influence from family and they encouraged me to do it,” Lara said. “I’m very excited. I’ve been waiting for this club to happen for a long time. Basically, I’m just hoping for the best - that we all get to play and build a foundation that we can build on.”

Lara wasn’t alone in referencing his family as an influence.

Freshman Meleana Paletua also shared that her family from the Bay Area already plays the sport, so it was a natural gravitation for her to answer the call for rugby at Patterson High.

“I think it’s really cool that it gives a lot of people that don’t know the sport to come here and play the sport with the team,” freshman student body Vice President Paletua said.

Freshman Kevin Munoz Santos explained that he just wants to try something new.

“I like the sport of football, but then I wanted to try something different and I found rugby,” Munoz Santos said. “I’ve never played before, and hopefully it comes out fun in the end.” 

The club meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays after school at Tomasegovich’s room. Several were there with the intention of playing, but several student body officers also just wanted to show support for a program still in its infancy.

Freshman student body Secretary Vanessa Figeroa said she heard about the club through the announcements at school, and just wanted to pitch in to help.

“You don’t have to play to be a part of it,” Figeroa said. “It gives kids more of a chance to be active and social. The sport is different for people.”

Freshman student body President Abby Hernandez also stressed that she wants to see the program grow.

“I want to see more kids join. Right now we are pretty small. A lot of kids don’t think of it as fun even though they never tried,” Hernandez said.

Sophomore student body Treasurer Atziri Munoz expressed a desire to possibly play but explained that fielding a team will take time.

“I heard it on the intercom and thought that would be a dope sport to play,” Munoz said. “It’s pretty slow because it’s a starting club. It’s a slow process to get the young club organized.” Munoz stated her hope is to see the club playing games to some capacity by spring.

PI sports writer

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