The purpose of the State of Florida Youth Rugby Union (FYRU) is to be a charitable sports organization formed to promote the development, participation, and enjoyment in youth Rugby.
In 2003 the North American West Indies Rugby Association (NAWIRA), under the leadership of Hedley Benyon, came to Florida to host a tournament at the Cocoa Expo in Cocoa. The event was sponsored by the Florida Rugby Union (FRU). In preparation for that event Florida created the Florida Thunder U-19 team (head coach Moe Levesque) to play other teams from Jamaica, Canada, and the Cayman Islands. The tournament also highlighted the U-19 mens and womens National teams from both the USA and Canada men and women. The tourmanent also boasted teams from around the USA and the UK who played not only contact rugby but non-contact, touch rugby. Several teams were coed.
Out of the momentum created by the NAWIRA tournament, two Florida teams were created from the touch teams. Lincoln Park Academy (coached by Pip Trew) from Port St. Lucie, Florida and the Brevard Old Red Eye U-19 boys (coached by Ray Campion) from Melbourne, Florida.
Since then, the league has grown to include teams from Jacksonville, Daytona, Jupiter, Naples, Tampa and St. Pete, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Niceville, Sarasota, Cape Coral and Orlando. Clubs are increasing pushing the age group down to where there now exists U-8, U-10, U-12, and U-16 teams within their own clubs.
Florida also boasts the only Varsity high school women’s program in the nation with the Sebastian River High School Sharks. This team, created under the vision of Mike Stutzki, the Athletic Director at SRHS, (coached by Allan Dobson) has been recognized by USA Rugby in video clips and promotional material for the growth of the women’s game in the USA.
In 2007 the FYRU and the FRU petitioned to be considered a State Based Rugby Organization and was selected by USA Rugby. In 2009, the FYRU formally became an associate member of the FRU. Together, the two organizations have increased the awareness of rugby outside of the typical rugby community.
Rookie Rugby, a non-contact version of the game, is being offered to physical education teachers as an alternative to dodgeball, basketball, etc. in school. The State of Florida is increasingly looking for ways of stamping out obesity, and Rookie Rugby fits the bill with its high cardiovascular workouts, the cost is extremely minimal compared to other sports, and is easy to teach and to learn. At present over 78,000 kids have been exposed to Rookie Rugby in Florida alone.
With the inclusion of sevens rugby in the 2016 Olympics, there can be no doubt about the future of this game not only in Florida but in the USA.