Buffalo area rugby enthusiasts have a new ‘home’ thanks to the recent business partnership between Rakavii Rugby Academy and Sahlen’s Sports Park in Elma.
In its first year of existence, Rakavii, which is owned by Tui and Jessie Osborne, has been dedicated to developing WNY rugby players in everything from skills & performance to leadership training from the youth level all the way to adult clubs. Now, with a firm home base location in Buffalo and a new slate of development programs for all ages, Rakavii and Sahlen’s together intend to grow the game and provide year-round access to rugby specific training.
“Our goal in partnering with Rakavii is to continue to grow the sport and develop local players,” said Sahlen’s Sports Park general manager Chuck Lawless. “Tui has great ties with all of the local organizations. Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. Our vision is to offer instructional rugby programming for toddlers up to adults which will give the WNY community an opportunity to learn and develop their skills in such a great team sport.”
As a leader within the regional rugby community, Tui saw an opportunity to share his knowledge and experiences with the next generations of rugby players and thus Rakavii was born. In just over one short year and with the help of Sahlen’s, Rakavii is taking a dramatic next step.
“I’ve always thought of Sahlen’s Sports Park as a great place to start a rugby academy,” said Osborne. “After experiencing a few touch rugby sessions and coaching a few club teams in there, I have always been impressed with the friendly staff, great sporting atmosphere, and excellent facilities.”
Tui added “Our goal is to help grow the game in WNY by introducing new comers and at the same time develop those are who are already involved in the sport. Rakavii’s purpose is to accelerate athletic performance by building positive athletic cultures, strong communities, and building skills.”
Like Rakavii, Sahlen’s is excited to open its doors wider to the rugby community, and with good reason, as Buffalo remains one of the top rugby-playing cities in the United States (per capita) with numerous youth clubs, over half a dozen high school boys’ and girls’ clubs, three adult womens’ clubs, and four mens’ clubs.
“Sahlen’s Sports Park has had rugby groups use the facility for practice time in previous years,” said Lawless. “This is the first time the Sports Park is offering programming for rugby players. We look forward to working with Rakavii Rugby to introduce rugby to new players.”
Training sessions are already underway and upcoming events can be found on Rakavii’s and Sahlen’s Sports Park’s websites.
Rakavii as a rugby-specific training program is the first of its kind in WNY, and the rugby-specific partnership with Sahlen’s is the first of its kind for both organizations.
In discussing what is next to come, Tui added “We are grateful for Aaran Lines (VP of Sahlen’s Sports Park) and Chuck Lawless as well as the Sahlen’s Family, for believing in the growth of the sport and for making this possible.”
“We are very fortunate to be part of this establishment,” Tui said. “The goal of the Academy is to build an elite environment where all players, new and old, are welcome to train and play. There are future plans to have travel teams, leagues, and tournaments for all age groups, as well as many more exciting opportunities.”
In addition to operating Rakavii, Tui is the head coach of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies rugby team. He is a national championship winning coach and past member of USA Eagles rugby.
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