Local Youth Rugby flourishes with new rules amid COVID-19

Rugby players in action on the field.
Rugby players in action on the field.

The San Diego Mustangs are a North County-based youth rugby club that fields teams for boys and girls of all skill levels from ages 5-18. As a core member of the Southern California Youth Rugby Association (SCYR) which includes teams from San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles, the Mustangs have looked to foster the growth of the game through its focus on positive coaching and safety in its well-developed youth rugby program.

“Rugby is fun for kids to play because everyone touches the ball, anyone can score, and every team needs a lot of different athletic skills and abilities, making it accessible to more than just a singular type of player,“ said Mustangs club president Joe Curtis. His enthusiasm echoes the sentiment of much of the organization as more and more get interested in one of America’s fastest growing sport.

In addition to fielding teams in the SCYR regular season competition for the Under 8 – Under 14 (December – March) and Under 16 –Under 18 (March – May) age divisions, the Mustangs offer a summer 7 a side rugby program, free rugby clinics, strength and conditioning training, skills camps, domestic and international tours, and connections to college programs and college counseling.

Founded in 2004, the Mustangs have grown from an original group of a few dozen players into a nationally-recognized program with more than 300 players that has produced numerous collegiate and professional rugby players and regularly competes for Under-18 national championships in both the boys and girls divisions.

Recent changes in Youth Rugby: U8 Flag, Weight Limits at U10-U14

As with all youth sports, the ongoing CoVID-19 pandemic posed significant challenges to the 2020 youth rugby season. Nonetheless, the 2020 still had its high points for the San Diego Mustangs. At the Under 8 division, the Mustangs made a seamless transition during the shift from touch rugby to the new flag rugby format and won the San Diego Section Championship. For the Under 10 - Under 14 age divisions, the 2020 season was the first conducted under the new SCYR weight division format and the Mustangs managed the transition well, winning the San Diego Section Championship at all three age divisions. Based on the positive feedback regarding the level of play and the demonstrated improvements in the safety of the game, SCYR has adopted these formats for the planned 2021 season. While the promising 2020 season was cut short for the Under 16 and Under 18 age divisions, the Mustangs were able to work within the city, county, and state guidelines to organize a summer training program for these teams. This provided the club with invaluable experience in the development and implementation of policies and procedures to comply with public health authority guidelines for minimizing the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission. “Building on these lessons, the Mustangs were able to host a fall training camp with coaching from SD Legion and USA Eagle Players and have prepared us to be ready for the upcoming season” said Curtis.

“As we look forward to guidance from public health authorities regarding the timing and requirements for a return to competitive play in the 2021 rugby season, the San Diego Mustangs Youth Rugby Club is committed to continuing to provide a safe and positive youth rugby experience that embodies the core rugby values of sportsmanship, mutual respect, commitment, and teamwork.” said Drew Hannaman, Mustang Rugby’s appointed COVID/safety manager and club registrar.

For those interested in checking rugby out, the Mustangs have made it easy to do so with the introduction of a free demo day clinic/camp to be hosted on Sunday, Nov. 15 at Pacific Highlands Community Park in Carmel Valley from 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. The free clinic (register at website below) is a great way for kids to see what the sport is about as Mustangs coaches will be teaching rugby basics and will put on touch, non-contact games for everyone in attendance. Registration for the U8, U10, U12, & U14 age groups is currently open through their website ( to players of all skill levels. — News release