Harlequins stepping up for South Okanagan youth

Harlequins stepping up for South Okanagan youth

Local rugby club donating thousands of dollars to help local youth players

Rugby: blood, sweat and no tears.

There is a passion running through the veins of those who have come together to battle on the pitch since the game was invented in the 1800s.

Creating and continuing that spirit has long been the goal of the Penticton Harlequins RFC. To that end, club members do whatever they can to help young players achieve their own personal heights in the game.

That includes everything from a program promoting the gentler side of the sport, in the form of touch instead of tackle for kids five to 15 (and one for adults as well), to providing funds for younger players who have an opportunity to go on to a higher level.

That was the goal Thursday night at the club headquarters where the Harlequins were giving thousands of dollars to help seven local youth Team B.C. members.

The boys were all selected to their respective age squads, which will compete at the upcoming Western Championships: U15 and U16 in Kelowna, July 25-29 and U18 in Winnipeg, Man., Aug. 8-18, against teams from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The players were selected from earlier tryout camps following the Provincial Regional Championship, where they played for the silver-medal winning U15 and U16 Kelowna-based Thompson/Okanagan Rugby Association divisions.

On the U15 team are Sol Jacques and Alan Woodhouse of Penticton and Summerland’s Kieran Messier.

On the U16 squad are Carlin Bordin-Slavens of Naramata, Koen Buckingham of Summerland and Penticton’s Daniel Kilian. Simon Phillips, Kaleden/Twin Lakes, is the U18 team member.

“These kids need money to keep going and our club mandate is to build rugby,” said Harlequin club president Ken Simpson, whose members are also working to establish a junior club league in the South Okanagan. “We’ve always sponsored junior players who have gone on and give them a little financial assistance too.

“It’s important because we just want to keep feeding that passion and it’s always fun watching these kids grow, seeing them out there playing having a smile on their face, running around and running into each other.”

The Harlequins have an open door policy for kids wanting to practice with the team in the off-season when they move indoors.

“The guys (club members) treat them excellent. It’s a chance to enhance some of the experiences of the game for them and learn a few things from the touch-and-run drills,” said Simpson, who has been with the club for 14 years as player, coach and executive member.

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Sol Jacques, who is one of the seven players going to the Westerns, took the club up that offer a couple of years ago.

“It’s been great and we really appreciate what the Harlequins are doing,” said Jacques, who is going into Grade 10 at Penticton Secondary School in September. “I’m really looking forward to it (Westerns). The competition is going to be very tough because we’re U15 and we’re in a division against U16, which should be interesting, but I’m sure we’ll do well. We’ve got a pretty talented squad.”

He started playing rugby three years ago while at McNicoll Park Middle School.

“My buddies told me about it so I just said ‘I want to try this.’ I did and I loved it from the first time I played,” recalled Jacques. “I like the physicality and I like the team aspect as well. We’re kind of all like brothers. We’ve all grown pretty close and when we do have the opportunity to play together on a team we definitely do well.”

His mother Kathryn Golbeck is one of the parents who has been actively fundraising to help the players achieve their goals.

“There are really big fees attached to all this (about $1,000 per player) and the Harlequins club and players have really rallied behind this,” said Golbeck. “These boys are good rugby players, quite a talented group, they love the game of rugby and they’ve worked really hard.

“We have a very strong group of rising rugby athletes, and all of these boys are very serious about and dedicated to their future in the sport.”

Penticton Western News