Rugby, according to Islanders varsity coach and Coronado Rugby Club founder, Santos Trujillo, is a tool. Something that teaches young people how to face the world and attack challenges, the same way a blindside flanker might take on an opposing half-back.
“The sport itself, being really tough, binds people together,” Trujillo said. “It teaches them life lessons that they can reflect on when they go out into the world. It has built in a resilient nature with our players – there are a lot of great things that I have gotten out of rugby and we are trying our best to help instill those skills within our program.”
On Friday, March, 10, the Islander boys varsity team demonstrated that strength of character, under a steady stream of cold rain, on a slick field at Cox Sports Park in Ladera Ranch, winning the Division II, rugby championship 24-5 over Clairemont High School. If that isn’t impressive enough, the team had to play in the championship game just about two hours after grinding out a 35-24 win against San Juan Hills in the semifinals.
“It was a messy night,” Trujillo said.
The back-to-back games happened as a result of numerous scheduling issues in recent weeks because of inclement weather. In between games, as the Islander squad waited to find out who their next opponent would be, they scattered for shelter.
“We started to get cold and had to find our players,” Trujillo said. “It was not ideal.”
Trujillo pointed out Elias Valdivia and Calvin Berkeley as the Islanders players of the match.
The championship is the third for the rugby program since its inception in 2014.
In the wake of Covid-19, Trujillo sees youth participation in sports like rugby as especially important now, as young people deal with the fallout and emotional toll of navigating a pandemic.
“Covid is a devastating thing that happened to our young people,” Trujillo reflected. “The fear of going outside and having to wear masks and do all these things has created an environment in our young people where they are fearful of doing things outside of the house. Getting them past that feeling is one of those things we are trying to get back into them and let them have more of a feeling of ‘go out there and conquer things – I can be anything, I can do anything.’”
Trujillo, a 24-year veteran of the Navy and a former SEAL operator, knows a thing or two about working through adversity. Rugby, he said, has helped him get through uncertainty in his own life.
“When I was moved out from the east coast to the west coast – during Iraq and Afghanistan – I went from an extremely operational environment to an office environment,” Trujillo remembered. “I was really missing the brotherhood of being around teammates, so I started playing rugby a lot more. That local competitiveness helped me with the transition from combat situations to a feeling of camaraderie again. It helped me develop a feeling of security in my new environment – I noticed then that this is a great thing for kids.”
A trip to Ireland is in the works for the rugby program. Trujillo had hoped the adventure would happen during the upcoming spring break, but it had to be postponed a year, largely due to financials. A stalwart in resilience, Trujillo put a trip together to the city of Gridley, in northern California.
“We really want to go to Ireland – it is one of the best places to go,” he said. “With things turning south and families being cautious with their funds it made sense to push it off. The goal is to get the kids to feel they can do anything in the world.”
“The trip to Gridley is going to happen on the 25th and 26th of this month,” he continued. “We are going to stay up there a night and play a game – we need to see if it is going to just be a high school game or a high school and middle school game.”
Learn more about Coronado Rugby here.