We came. We saw. We shot the boot!: That taste in your mouth is a time-honored savory sweetness of scoring, sweat, and your scrum-half's socks.

We’re all new at something.  Whether we’re kids or bald old dudes or someone in-between – we’re all fumbling around with something in our lives in which we are rookies.

Or newbies.  In the case of our mighty band of Under-12s Santa Cruz youth ruggers, I’m introducing rugby to 90% of these kids and their parents, while honestly still trying to figure out how to do it the right way.  The kids have done an amazing job, ably documented at your favorite rugby site.

And the parents see that is paying off.  It paid off that first weekend, just trying to get the basics right – and the parents brought them back to practice the next week.

It paid off the next weekend, as we introduced them to the thrills and spills of the 5 am wakeup call for a rugby road trip.  They sloshed and rucked through islands of mud, won some, lost more, and never gave up in the face of an epic swarm of bigger, faster ruggers – and the parents brought them back to practice the next week.

It paid off that very week – the kids showing up and working harder, driving forward from a base of the tried and true basics of winning while having some fun:

Week Three: Learning to win by winning the breakdown

Week Three: Learning to win by winning the breakdown

1.       Tackle confidently – tackle safely – you will tackle well, and WE will win the ball

2.       Ruck over – hustle to the tackle, be a buddy, and WE will win the ball

3.       Hustle to the right place – whether that’s rucking to the breakdown, picking up a loose ball, filling a gap – and WE will win the ball

4.       Your score is your buddy’s, his tackle is yours – WE are all buddies, WE will win together, We will have fun together

All of that adds up to winning for the kids, for the team, and for the adults who keep bringing them out.  It also means pride in our efforts if we happen to lose.  It builds something we can add upon day by day in all areas of our lives.

It paid off that weekend, as they were up and charging to the next breakdown, teeth gritted and smiles o’plenty, rucking and rumbling up and down the pitch relentlessly until the whistle blows and pizza / pop take over.

And come Monday, not only did the parents bring them out for more practice – they brought more kids along!

Which brings us to this past weekend – a weekend chock full of Rugby Saturdays all over the world and American Television .  The kids hit the pitch on a Rugby Saturday, surrounded by well over 500 kids ranging from 8-14 playing rugby.

It’s an amazing world, one that keeps getting better (no matter who thinks otherwise).  The parents and kids were part of that world, achieving things they had no idea they could achieve a month before, with a confidence and awareness that many adults don’t even share.

They played long games on a warm day – three games with a great style of winning the tackles and rucks, keeping the ball, winning the ball, and moving down the pitch.  Three hard games – two romps, one tough loss – built on practice and perseverance and the parents who kept bringing them out to practice.

Built on a bunch of kids, parents, and even bald coaches learning something new, each and every week. 

Learning things like how to coach, how to substitute kids in and out, how to keep practice going without discouraging parents or kids, how to keep the kids coming out on Mondays & Wednesdays, learning how to play a fun style of winning rugby.

Learning to really taste that win with your buddies.

Leaning to taste your first straight lineout throw.  Your first time at prop.

Learning to taste your first drop-kick.  Your first dropped-kick.

Learning to taste your first score.

Learning to shoot the boot.

What does drinking from teammate’s boot taste like?

It tastes like smiles.

Week four: Learning to taste the sweet, sweaty, almost-savory taste of your first try. 

Week four: Learning to taste the sweet, sweaty, almost-savory taste of your first try. 

Sweat.

Santa Cruz Youth Red Hawks: We Came. We Saw. We shot the boot! 

Santa Cruz Youth Red Hawks: We Came. We Saw. We shot the boot! 

Tackles made (and, yes, missed).

Breakdowns hustled to and rucked over.  Gainlines made (sometimes).

It tastes like three games under a surprisingly hot sun surrounded by increasingly solid rugby.

It tastes like a root beer float of balls won, and spun out, and supported by a sometimes-fleet, sometimes lumbering, but always eager line of ruggers charging in one direction together.  Sweat flying, smiles wide.

What does that taste like?  Ask these kids!

About Brian: Brian Schnack is an Iowa native, Santa Cruz resident working in product management in Silicon Valley for Five9, and currently coaching for the Santa Cruz Red Hawks U-12s. He's played across various positions and teams since 1990, most proudly with U of Iowa, West Point, London Welsh Occies, Paxos (RIP), Mission (RIP), Clowns, and Vagabonds (Back Bay/Army) Old Boys.  You can bug him on twitter via @theschnack