Fresh Meadows Rugby Academy looking to recruit more high school players for upcoming season

Photo courtesy of Anthony Zambrano.

The Fresh Meadows Rugby Academy is now accepting new players to join the team for its fall season, its second after being founded in September 2021.

(Photo courtesy of Anthony Zambrano)

While the spring 2022 season was played in the style of “15s,” which involves 15 players on the field for each team and 22 on the roster, the fall season will be played in “7s,” with seven players on the field for each team and a 12-person roster. While many of the players on the team are students from St. Francis Prep, those interested in joining can also be students from other schools in the area.

The Fresh Meadows Rugby Academy’s season is comprised of multiple tournaments. The tournament dates for the fall season are Oct. 1, 15 and 22, as well as Nov. 5 and 12. Their opponents may not be limited to teams from New York State, as these tournaments attract teams from all over the Eastern United States.

According to Fresh Meadows Rugby Academy team captain Anthony Zambrano, there’s a lot of life lessons that can be learned through the game. In addition to learning how to play the game, those interested in joining the team will learn about teamwork, dedication, accountability, brotherhood, respect and friendship.

Zambrano’s love of the sport came during his freshman year of high school at St. Francis Prep. Already a member of the school’s track team at that point, two fellow students, as well as the school’s rugby coach Cynthia Kouril, encouraged him to try his hand at rugby as well. Eventually, he decided to try the sport.

(Photo courtesy of Anthony Zambrano)

“I fell in love with the sport instantly,” Zambrano said. “While [Fresh Meadows Rugby Academy] is a very new team, our chemistry is off the charts. The way we’ve progressed is amazing.”

As Zambrano enters his senior year at St. Francis Prep, his love of the game has only grown stronger. While Zambrano acknowledged that many people may initially think that rugby is a sport meant for people who are very big and strong, he insisted there’s much more to the game than size.

“Rugby is a sport for people of all shapes and sizes,” Zambrano said. “There are so many positions that do many different things. It’s everybody’s sport.”

According to Kouril, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced St. Francis Prep and many other schools in the area to close its rugby program, she created Fresh Meadows Rugby Academy to help ensure all those orphaned players had a team to continue playing for. Among the tournaments that the team has taken part in over the last year are the Thanksgiving tournament on Randall’s Island and the Rockaway 7s at Fort Tilden. Kouril said she hopes to attract at least five more players before the Fall 2022 season begins.

“Except for one, every single player currently on our team came to me never having held a rugby ball in their hand,” Kouril said. “Starting from scratch is much easier than you would expect. We had a player who started last September get invited to a national team combine in May.”

Kouril believes that the sport can and will grow in popularity in the United States. She described the sport as having the continuous play of soccer, the tackles and contact of football and hockey and the ball handling of basketball. The United States is scheduled to host the Women’s World Cup for rugby in 2023 and the Men’s World Cup in 2031. She also noted that there is now a professional league in the country, Major League Rugby.

Those interested in joining the Fresh Meadows Rugby Academy can message Kouril through the team’s Facebook page.

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