Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Breyanah Graham (Ridgeway High School)
Memphis teens are famous.
Like superstars, Memphis teens have gained the attention of the media, making their way all over the Internet and even onto national news.
However, this new stardom is because of the wrong reasons and Memphis teens are basking in the spotlight of subjective headlines due to fighting and acts of violence occurring at places like a gas station and a local Kroger.
Determined to change the face of teens in Memphis portrayed to the media, Memphis Inner City Rugby has become an organization within the Memphis community that serves as a positive reinforcement for teenagers.
Founded in September 2012, Memphis Inner City Rugby is a non-profit organization composed of the first inner city rugby team in Memphis with team at four schools including Freedom Preparatory Academy, Soulsville Charter School, Central High School, and Power Center Academy High School. All teams are for males, except the team at Central High School, which has female athletes.
“Our program’s main mission is to expand athletic and academic opportunity in low-income communities through the power of rugby,” said Bradley Trotter, head coach at Memphis Inner City Rugby’s team at Soulsville Charter School.
With this mission in mind, Memphis Inner City Rugby has impacted over 200 teens from low-income areas of across the city by bringing the sport to communities that were once foreign to the term.
Jarterrius Brown, a student at Freedom Prep, remembers thinking rugby would be like football when he tried out. It turned out to be very different.
“All I really remember was having to try to keep the ball in my arms while my friend Jarvis had to try to get the ball from my arms. Coach Lopez was telling us that the ball was our baby. We couldn’t let anyone take or drop our baby, we couldn’t let anyone take or drop our baby. So I held on to that ball. I remember thinking how the ball I felt way bigger than a football. So I was thinking how the ball felt way bigger than a football. So I was thinking how was I supposed to throw the ball? So I waited to see how the players who had experience to throw it. It was really weird. Unlike football, you can’t throw the ball forward. It’s more like pitching the ball backwards. It was complicated at first, but it became easy and fun after a while. Then we had to run. I cursed under my breath whole time. That 10 minutes felt like an eternity. My thighs were burning. My feet were hurting, and I was wet and cold. My hands felt crusty from slipping in mud. At the end, rugby made me work, and feel like I accomplished something.”
However, Memphis Inner City Rugby isn’t just about teaching teens the sport of rugby. Memphis Inner City Rugby works to impact teenagers on more than just the rugby field by requiring their players to succeed in their academics as well as in multiple aspects outside of the classroom.
“We don’t just play rugby,” said Trotter. “We help reduce the gap in the opportunities that they have. We have college prep classes and we monitor their grades. We help open doors that previously weren’t open for them.”
So far, the statistics taken by the Memphis Inner City Rugby proves that the work this organization is doing is making an impact outside of the playing field in the lives of their players. Memphis Inner City Rugby reports that they have a 100 percent acceptance rate of their players to post-secondary education and 90 percent rate of their players making academic progress.
Another player from Freedom Preparatory, Johnathon Johnson remarked, “I know first-hand that rugby can change your life and turn it around. It makes you want to be better at everything, especially rugby. And once you get on the field you’re like a completely different person. It makes you stronger and together, but above all it builds a bond with your team to not enter a bad crowd anymore and keeps you away from bad things. Rugby will change you inside and out.”
Those involved with Memphis Inner City Rugby are hoping to continue and expand the program in the future to help contribute to positively impacting the lives of teens one player at a time.