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Rugby Player Found A Way to Get It Done

Jun 14, 2016 10:05AM ● Published by Greg James

The single school rugby team at Copper Hills finished up its first season of competition, thanks to the dedication of a senior Kaden Nielsen. Photo courtesy of Greg James

By Greg James | gregj@mycityjournals.com


Rugby had become a major interest to a Copper Hills student, but after a team change he found himself all dressed up with no team to play on.

Copper Hills High School senior Kaden Nielsen found a sport he enjoyed and had become very good at, rugby. His sophomore season he was part of the multi-school team from West Jordan. Due to the increasing number of players the team decided to change divisions and enter the single school bracket. This meant Nielsen could only play on the team if he attended West Jordan High School.

“Kaden had many more variables that would lead to failure than opportunities to win. I am not just talking about rugby games. He was asked to leave the West Jordan team and had the guts to walk in the door of the principal’s office at Copper Hills and lay out a plan to start a team. I think there are not many students who have the guts to take this risk. Kaden has learned to advocate for himself, question what he is being told and get back up after he has been knocked on his butt,” Copper Hills Principal Todd Quarnberg said.

His determination did not let him down and Nielson began making plans to form a Copper Hills team. He adopted the phrase WBTNO, meaning we bow to no one.

“I first started loving to play rugby. I could not play anymore with the West Jordan team so I started asking around and found people that wanted to play. I got enough together and got some great coaches and really started to organize it all,” Nielson said.

Nielson recruited players, sponsors and coaches to keep his dream alive. He found a former college rugby player living in his neighborhood, Jordan Clark to be the teams head coach.

Clark was a Riverton High School graduate and played competitive club rugby at Utah State. He was interested in helping organize the Grizzly team. He received the needed training and helped acquire the necessary endorsement from the Utah Youth Rugby Association.

“I was the only coach for a little while. We were recruiting and practicing as much as we could. We used the grass right in front of Copper Hills and as would luck would have it a guy drove by turned around and called a friend of his that was interested in helping us out. I think we found more players and coaches just by being in front of the school,” Clark said.

The administration at Copper Hills supported the efforts of the team by allowing them to make announcements and meet with the football team and acquire uniforms.

“The school has been so supportive. Our mistake was getting  a late start. Many potential players had started playing other sports. This year is almost an advertisement for next year. We have a lot of sophomores and juniors. We do not have many players that have ever played football. Our tackling skills are not quite up to par, but we are improving,” Clark said.

Wins and losses were not the goal this season. The Grizzles won only one match via a forfeit and scored only one try, but were supported by all of the Utah rugby family in their efforts.

“Rugby can be different than other sports. The players play their guts out on the field then as you walk off they become a brotherhood. All of our oppoets have thanked us for starting up and halping to grow the sport. This is an awesome group of kids,” Clark said.

The Grizzlies lost in the first round of the state playoffs 74-7 to Davis. They are scheduled to play in the consolation championship May 21. 

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