Summit High School girls rugby opts for fall noncontact intramural programming |

Summit High School girls rugby opts for fall noncontact intramural programming

Currently no games planned, though program subject to change

Summit's Lily Hess plays against Monarch in the Summit sevens rugby tournament Sept. 7, 2019, at Summit High School in Breckenridge.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

DILLON — On Friday afternoon, revered Summit High School rugby head coach Karl Barth joked that he’d been at the high school field the past few days. Albeit, he was marking new lines on the rugby pitch that were eight feet away from one another.

“It’s a bit of a different world lining the field these days,” Barth said about novel coronavirus regulations. “But at least we’re lining it.”

After 12 consecutive state championships, it’s taken a pandemic to prevent the Summit High girls rugby team from winning another Colorado title.

Barth, the program’s founder, said Friday, Aug. 14, that the Tigers will opt for an intramural program this fall. Barth said the completely in-house sessions on Summit High School grounds will divide girls into “cohort” groups. Beginning Monday, Aug. 17, these groups will be able to play in drills and other forms of training but no full-contact games or scrimmages.

Barth said the program came to the decision for the fall season after a survey of players, parents and coaches as well as oversight and direction from the Summit School District and Summit County Department of Public Health.

The Summit Tigers girls rugby program is independent from the state association that governs most other high school sports, the Colorado High School Activities Association. As such, Barth said the program and school decided to move forward at this time with planning for some kind of athletic option for girls for this fall season. That’s in part, Barth said, is because Rugby Colorado, the governing body for the sport in the state, has not announced plans for a spring season.

“It will look nothing like a rugby season,” Barth said. “We’re not traveling, playing other teams, no contact — those kind of things. But the basis of (the decision) was that social, emotional piece of it. The kids want things to do. Parents want kids involved. We did surveys with players and parents, and the student-athletes are full-go. Most of the parents are comfortable as long as we’re not traveling and doing those things. So we crafted it to meet the needs of kids in terms of having something to do.

“Not everyone is happy,” Barth added. “Some want to tackle, to play games. We’re just trying to find a balance.”

More specifically, Barth said it was determined that certain elements of rugby, such as rucking, is too high risk for potential transmission of the virus. As such, the program will begin Monday with sessions four days a week at Summit High School. At these sessions, Barth said rugby players will be split up into groups of 8-12, within which they will practice and play elements of the sport in a nongame setting for several weeks. He said that over the season these divided “cohort” groups may change, as earlier in the season the team may opt to mix players of different ability levels while later in the season they may choose to put players of similar skill levels in the same groups.

“Several weeks with a group of kids, then some sort of competition at the end of that,” Barth said about the current plan for fall programming. “Maybe a skills competition, flag or touch rugby — it depends on where the county is at that current time. We wrote it to be fairly flexible.”

Barth said though the proud girls rugby program could have waited until the spring to have a more traditional season, he feels “there’s no guarantee of anything then.” He said come spring, if guidelines and health regulations change, there is the possibility members of the Tigers program could play in traditional tournaments, as they have done in years past.

“It just made more sense for the kids to be engaged now,” Barth said.

The only Summit High School sports teams to play this fall will be boys golf and boys and girls cross-country running. Fall contact sports such as football and boys soccer have been delayed to March due to state concerns with COVID-19.

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