A Rugby Clinic Sunday At Vidinha

Sean Heasley, with daughter Cecilia, will help lead the free clinic. Photo from Angie Smallidge

Sean Heasley, with girlfriend Cecilia, will help lead the free clinic. Photo from Angie Smallidge

There’s an epidemic moving swiftly throughout the island right now.

People are lackadaisical, lethargic and full of sorrow. It seems to happen right around the same time every year, and though we are given plenty of warning, many of us fall victim to this natural contagion each go ’round the sun.

No, it’s not the flu of which I speak.

It’s football withdrawal. No mask or injection can protect us from this annual February fever when the Super Bowl clock ticks all the way down and training camp seems like an unreachable dream.

But fear not, there could be a way to subdue this dastardly disease, this merciless malaise. The cure may be in the form of a rugby ball.

Angie Smallidge of Kilauea has been trying to get more women to play the sport she loves for the past few years. I first corresponded with Smallidge in 2010 when she asked me to help get the word out to other Kaua’i women that they could join up for some rugby practice with no experience necessary. She had an obvious passion for the game, and wanted more women to enjoy what is typically thought of as a European, Australian and South Pacific male sport.

Not only was she not European, Australian, South Pacific or male, Smallidge also was 75 years old.

Beginning her rugby days in Phoenix at the age of 40, she now continues to toss the ball around with those just learning the game.

“I’m still playing at age 78,” she says. “But I’m trying to focus attention on the young people on the island so that we can get a full team for both the men and women. A Honolulu team will travel here once we get our full side for a game.”

Anyone who wants to learn about the game or is interested in becoming more involved can attend a free clinic that Smallidge will run with Sean Heasley Sunday, Feb. 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Vidinha Stadium.

The pair have teamed up to start Kaua’i on the path to interisland rugby competition, as Heasley notes that both Oahu and Maui already have men’s clubs. On a promotional flier Heasley made to garner interest, he describes rugby as a full-contact sport that combines elements of American football and soccer “but more fun than BOTH.”

While that may be a tough sell in our football-centric society, I have to say that I’m surprised there isn’t much rugby in Hawaii. It’s obviously a very physical sport, which is how we appreciate our football and other contact activities. With other physical activities like traditional martial arts and the more modern mixed martial arts continuing to grow in popularity, rugby could become a different type of physical outlet, and can be played year round.

And while Smallidge may be the exception, rather than the rule, it is a sport that can be played over a number of generations. Smallidge will have her daughter, visiting from Phoenix, in attendance at the rugby clinic, while Sean’s girlfriend, Cecilia, will also be there as part of the Kauai women’s club.

So if you’re feeling down in the dumps with no football on the tube, spend this Sunday afternoon at Vidinha Stadium getting some free rugby training. It just might be the antidote you’ve been searching for.

Sean Heasley can be contacted at srheasley@comcast.net or 412-596-0042. Angie Smallidge can be reached at 828-0580.