Building Character through Competition

While it takes physical skill to excel in sports, one Utah-based organization is taking it a step further to create truly elite athletes. 

Utah Lions Rugby Academy is a High Performance Development organization that aims to prepare players for Olympic and National rugby teams. They not only take athletes around the country to play in major tournaments, but they emphasize education and civic responsibility as well, requiring a minimum 3.0 GPA and participation in community service during their season.

In the spring of 2017, Utah Lions Rugby Academy was a recipient of the Community Foundation of Utah’s Salt Lake City Youth Athletic Grant. This grant is awarded to youth athletic organizations that are local, nonprofit, and competitive to benefit low-income athletes residing in Salt Lake City. As a result of this year’s grant, the Utah Lions were able to take on three young men, including two immigrants. “They each bring a unique set of perspectives that has helped our team to appreciate our differences,” said Michael Cressler, President and Head Coach of Utah Lions Rugby Academy.

In the organization’s grant impact report, Michael reflected on a team member who was uniquely transformed by the scholarship he received: “[One athlete] was running with some of the young Hispanic gangs and once he started to become part of the team, he said he didn’t like hanging with his old friends anymore…he felt he could be so much more and that his teammates were better friends to him.” This athlete went on to become a team captain, his grades improved, and he “is a very different kid than the one who showed up during tryouts.”

In addition to their successes in 2017, the Utah Lions Rugby Academy had two team members who were scholarship recipients make the U18 National Team. Both athletes were able to receive scholarships from the Salt Lake City Youth Athletic Grant.

To learn more about the Utah Lions Rugby Academy, visit their website.

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