South LA teens to play rugby in China

By Faith Miller

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imagePhoto courtesy of Stuart Krohn.

Fourteen-year-old Nia Tolliver plays rugby at View Point Prep High on the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson.

Her coach says she’s a prodigy for the sport, and could play in the Rio Olympics. He says her aggression makes her an excellent athlete. She says it’s the reason she plays rugby.

“I played basketball but I always fouled out because I’m really a contact person,” Tolliver said. “I’m big.”

Tolliver and her teammates say the sport isn’t just an outlet for aggression, it’s also helped them become better students. Eleventh grader Noah Trotter says playing rugby taught him discipline and focus.

“Before I played, I was, not a bad kid, but I made bad decisions,” Trotter said. He joined the team in high school, after almost failing 8th grade.

Now, Trotter is a straight-A student. He says his coach helped to turn him around. “He helped me become a better role model, believe it or not,” Trotter said. “He helped me stay focused on my grades and succeed.”

The Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) Rugby Team founder and coach Stuart Krohn won’t take credit. “They do it,” Krohn said. “We just give them the playing field to do it on.”

imagePhoto courtesy of Stuart Krohn.

The players run with the ball on and off the field. They prepared a song for the post-game celebrations they’ll participate in while in China without any adult help.

Junior Symone Muepo says it’s the support and trust of the rugby family that has pushed the group to excel. “Each player wants each other to do the best they can do,” Muepo said. “And I know what you do, so if you do anything less, I’m gonna let you know and make sure you do what you need to push yourself.”

Other players say that rugby itself is the positive outlet that has changed them. When asked to describe what it feels like to play, the students have a tendency to smile widely.

imagePhoto courtesy of Stuart Krohn.

“It’s just adrenaline everywhere,” Tolliver said. “You’re kind of like, ‘Get the ball and run with it and score.'”

Krohn says the players’ passion for the sport is what’s behind the positivity. “I think rugby helps to bring everything together and keep them focused because they love it so much,” Krohn said.

The team will travel around China for ten days and visit Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kond where they will compete in the Hong Kong International Youth Sevens Tournament.

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