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.

Documentary on South LA rugby team receives a win

The documentary film, “Red, White, Black and Blue,” following students in a rugby program at a K-12 public charter school in South Los Angeles, won “Best Documentary” at the Idyllwild CinemaFest on Thursday.image

The film touches on the lives of 38 male and female high school rugby players, who participate in a rugby program at the Inner City Educational Foundation (ICEF) run by Director Stuart Krohn.

The rugby team traveled to New Zealand where they had the opportunity to learn about different cultures and dispel the negative views of South Los Angeles, while competing in rugby.

The program began ten years ago, and was started by Krohn, a former professional rugby player and English teacher. Over 4,000 students have been introduced to rugby through P.E. classes and after-school programs. Each year, 200 boys and girls compete on the tackly rugby teams, according to a statement by the ICEF Public Schools. Krohn organizes international trips for his players each year. Previous trips have allowed students to visit Hong Kong, England and South Africa.

“Rigby is a chance for our students to step outside the box and try something different. Our kids have the ability to suspend judgement and defy the stereotypes that other people might have of them,” said Krohn, in a statement.

The film will continue to appear in festivals around Southern California over the next several months. It will appear at the Pan African Film Festival at the Rave Baldwin Hills Plaza in Los Angeles on February 12, 2013.

For more information on the film, visit “Red, White, Black and Blue.”