It's easy to have a conversation with Astrid Ramos, but if you really want to get her going, ask her about rugby.
The 15-year-old is a sophomore at Summit High School and a member of the girls' rugby team. She's been playing the sport for two years and is absolutely hooked. Now, she wants to share that passion with others.
Ramos is putting together a rugby camp Feb. 17 for boys and girls in third, fourth and fifth grade. The four-hour course will emphasize the non-contact aspects of the sport. Participants will learn how to handle the ball, pass and play defense, as well as some fun games.
"I want to get them hooked on it and have a good experience," Ramos said.
Ramos' camp, which she calls Rugby Rascals, first came about as a school project. As part of the International Baccalaureate program, high school students are required to complete a personal project in their sophomore year. At first, Ramos struggled to come up with an idea.
"I wanted to do something that really wasn't for myself, it would benefit other people," she said, but she just wasn't sure how to do it.
After some thinking and discussion with teachers, she hit upon a way to blend this project with her personal passion.
"I decided that I would share rugby with kids," she said.
Ramos herself wishes she had been introduced to rugby at an earlier age. An avid athlete in elementary and middle school, participating in dance, gymnastics, tennis and cheerleading, among others, she didn't experience rugby until sixth grade. It wasn't love at first sight, however, and Ramos decided not to play.
"I didn't understand it," she said.
Some of that misunderstanding can be blamed on a language barrier. Ramos grew up in Mexico, so her native language is Spanish. Though now her English is perfect, when she arrived in Summit County five years ago it wasn't so fluent. Additionally, rugby, like all sports, comes with a hefty dose of confusing jargon that can easily baffle anyone not familiar with scrums, rucks and tries.
Ramos' next run-in with rugby happened several years later, when a friend suggested they head over to Dairy Queen after school. The ice cream was a ruse, and the two ended up at rugby practice.
"She totally tricked me into rugby practice," Ramos said with a laugh.
Now, Ramos plays the scrum half and halfback positions and is excited for the upcoming trip to nationals in May.
But between then and now, she wants to pass on her knowledge to the younger generation of Summit County.
To complete her project, Ramos first had to get certified to teach rugby. She contacted USA Rugby and arranged for a certification course at the high school. Many of her teammates joined, and also accompanied Ramos in giving lessons at Silverthorne and Summit Cove elementary schools.
"Everyone on the team has helped me a lot," she said.
The project has presented Ramos with some challenges, particularly in regard to organization and clear communication, which she has worked to overcome.
"If I want this to work, I should probably try to fix this," she told herself after one setback. Now, Ramos said, "I'm feeling pretty confident."
Ramous also said she would like to continue Rugby Rascals after her project is finished, into the summer and beyond. She wants to build a youth rugby league, which would continue even after she graduates.
"I really can't explain it," she said, when asked why rugby was so important to her. "It's not just the game, but the culture of the sport."
It's also something she wants to keep doing beyond high school.
"I would really like to keep rugby as part of my life."