Raptors Give Back to the Community, Reach New Fans in the Process

Sara Wright   22-Feb-2019   Seth McConnell

Raptors Give Back to the Community, Reach New Fans in the Process

As told by Raptors General Manager, Mark Bullock

Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 2.22.19, the location – Glendale High Altitude Training Center

Since the very inception of our Glendale Raptors Rugby Club, it has always been very important to me, as the Director of Rugby, to instill a culture of giving back, inclusion and involvement. From the very beginning, the Raptors have been dedicated ambassadors of rugby, intertwining their love of sport with the people of Glendale and beyond. It started as a promise of service, a promise that we, as a team, would give back to the people within our community that support us - our stadium, our team and our players.

However, this promise has, in fact, become so much more.

Each of the volunteer and community events that the Raptors attend is the beginning of a chain reaction: as more and more people are affected, the accepting, inviting rugby family will continue to grow. Not only do these events benefit the community, the team also introduces new fans and players to the sport.

The program has the additional benefit of making stronger people out of the players as well. They learn something about themselves, even if they’re initially hesitant to commit. Something transpires in the process of helping others, of meeting the community and interacting with those that, in turn, help us. It’s a valuable process. We do it, and we get something from it, as well. Ultimately, it not only benefits the community, but it benefits the club and each of these players.

One of the first things I like to touch upon in any of my coaching sessions or leadership courses is something James Kerr said in his book Legacy, What The All Blacks Can Teach Us About The Business Of Life - in which he talks about the team's cultural mantra of "Sweeping the Shed", a tradition that says that no individual is bigger than the team. Everyone is responsible for the smallest details - including cleaning out the locker room after training or a match. "Sweeping the shed" is your job, no matter who you are.

With that being said, this is one of those times where we put that culture in place here in Glendale. No matter who you are, you are called upon to serve in our Raptors in the Community program. It’s a unique program that is part public relations, part community service, but mostly it serves the greater good and ultimately teaches our team to ‘sweep the shed,’ and leave their community a better place than where they found it.

Throughout 2018 and into early 2019, the Raptors not only help out our Glendale Youth Rugby programs, but they have made countless stops at area elementary schools, teaching some basic rugby skills to students during their Physical Education classes, lunch-time recess, and even during various after school programs.

They do a similar thing during their monthly visits to Denver Health, in which they demonstrate a learn rugby program for the Adolescent Psychiatry Inpatient unit. This program is considered a highlight for many of our players, as they can see such an immediate positive response among so many of the youth.

They have also partnered with the Children’s Hospital of Colorado, where they make regular appearances and spend time greeting the young patients and their families. At this event, the athletes always bring a lot of swag and spend a lot of time talking with families and signing memorabilia for the kids to enjoy. Most recently, a favorite to hand out is a signed book called R is for Rugby, written by New York’s scrumhalf Mike Petri. The Raptors have also been able to utilize this fun alphabet book along with other rugby-themed books at the Glendale Bookies Bookstore, where they are able to show off their more scholastic side, reading to youth in informative and fun sessions that give local book lovers the chance to meet and mingle with their Glendale Raptors. Besides that, the Raptors always try to make it to local City events, making an appearance for the City of Glendale’s Bike to Work event at Creekside Park last summer, and Glendale’s Throwdown Showdown, a premier talent search event held in early December.

Their reach, of course, spans well outside Glendale, as they teamed up with members of the Glendale Police Department to compete at the Denver International Airport’s Plane Pull Challenge, benefiting the Special Olympics. The Raptors were even invited to dance alongside the City of Denver’s Mayor, Michael Hancock, at a City Spirit event last year, while making special appearances at various other City holiday events, including one of Colorado’s largest, the Denver St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The Raptors will also continue to expand upon these partnerships and community programs along with various other new initiatives this year. Under the leadership of a new Director of Marketing, Pam Dunbar, and a new Youth Rugby Coordinator, Jamie Burke, we are very excited to see more Raptors out in the Community and feel rugby’s reach grow even wider.

Furthermore, as we look to start hosting our first home matches in early March, we can’t wait to start interacting with our local rugby fans on more of a regular basis. For instance, this year, we have evolved our Glendale Raptors Happy Hour events a bit and instead of traveling across the Denver metro to various breweries, we will now host a Happy Hour on the Wednesday before every home match at the local Old Chicago on Colorado Blvd, and bring the brewers to you. Our first event of this type is February 27, where we will hope to meet up with fans, young and old, from 5-7 p.m. Old Chicago is a great local partner and we are excited to join forces with them and connect them with the other Colorado brewers that have supported our events.

Additionally, before each of our Raptors home matches, the players who aren’t named to the game-day roster will be offering up some Rugby 101 for rugby newbies in our Fan Zone, starting two hours before kick-off on the festival plaza above the Stadium. Each of them will lay down some Rugby 101 knowledge as they work at the rugby-themed activities within the Fan Zone. They will be back during halftime to mingle and answer questions about the game. Following the game, of course, fans are always invited to stick around and actually come down on the field to meet the players or even up to our Try Club for more one-on-one time with our team owners, coaches and players.

I’m so proud to fuel a team culture where egos are left at the door, and if you haven’t yet been out to a game, I think that is also what makes the sport of rugby so appealing to Americans. We have a great, hard-hitting, action-packed sport with tremendous athletes, and yet our team is made up of down-to-earth, genuine individuals in which everyone is willing to sweep the shed!

If you have any questions about our Glendale Raptors Rugby Club or know of a place where we could benefit the community, please don’t hesitate to reach out at MBullock@glendale.co.us.

Upcoming Match

Glendale Raptors vs. Rugby United New York

Friday April 26, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Major League Rugby
Glendale Raptors
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Match Played at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado

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