An Exclusive Video Interview with Ryan Burke: President of Oakland, CA Warthogs Rugby Club

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Rugby Nation Interview

Release Date: October 10, 2013

Series: The Heart Of Rugby

Who? Coach Ryan Burke

Title? President of Oakland California Warthogs Rugby Club

Why? His club won the California Summer Division Varsity Championship with the most unexpected and underdog team in the tournament. He donates his time to help change the lives of inner-city kids and builds their character through the best sport in the world, Rugby. Two of his players were tragically killed in an automobile accident when the driver fell asleep at the wheel, while on their way back home from their annual Las Vegas tournament. The touching story about the players lost, and his realization of how much this program means to his players and their families.

Interview Takeaways:

1)     “Rugby made me wonder why I ever wasted my time with American Football.”

2)     “The sport of Rugby is so similar to life…You have a plan…You move forward…You then don’t have time to waste worrying about what happens, you just have to play and adapt…The more you put your heart and soul into something, the more you get out of it.”

3)     “The sport is so special to me, and I feel so honored to have been able to participate in, that I want to share it with everyone I know.”

4)     “Rugby is a brotherhood. It’s because you go through hell together and have each other’s back through it.”

5)     Coach Ryan Burke’s Five Principles Of Rugby:

  1. a.     •INTEGRITY – Integrity is central to the fabric of the Game and is generated through honesty and fair play
  2. b.     •PASSION – Rugby people have a passionate enthusiasm for the Game. Rugby generates excitement, emotional attachment and a sense of belonging to the global Rugby family
  3. c.     •SOLIDARITY – Rugby provides a unifying spirit that leads to lifelong friendships, camaraderie, teamwork and loyalty which transcends cultural, geographic, political and religious differences
  4. d.     •DISCIPLINE – Discipline is an integral part of the Game, both on and off the field, and is reflected through adherence to the Laws, the Regulations and Rugby’s core values
  5. •RESPECT – Respect for teammates, opponents, match officials and those involved in the Game is paramount.

Start of Interview:

RugbyNation.com: So, we have a mutual friend, Cameron and I was driving past his house the other day with my truck. I’ve got my logo on my truck and he says “What do you have to do with Rugby?” And he says, well, and I told him, “I’m launching a new website called RugbyNation.com”, and he says, “There’s a guy you have to talk to. He’s one of my best friends, his name is Ryan Burke and he just lost a few players tragically and you just have to talk to him. He has done so much for so many kids.” And I’d been wanting to do this interview with you for a long time now. And also, in the process of launching the website that I should be launching at here soon, but on purpose, I decided to do too much research on you because I wanted to learn from you, about you, at the same time as the viewers at RugbyNation.com will get to. And just to let you know a little bit about RugbyNation.com. I want through RugbyNation.com, I want people to feel what I feel, what the heart of Rugby is. And I want that to come through in interview and through everything that happens on Rugby Nation, and because I’m so passionate about it myself-

Coach Ryan Burke: Yeah.

RugbyNation.com: I love making new friends like you that are passionate about it as well. And I would love to hear your story and I would love to just, you know, just tell me and the viewers about yourself, what makes you so passionate about it, your history, and then what you’re doing for these kids in California? I would love to hear the story.

Coach Ryan Burke: How do you want to start?

RugbyNation.com: You know, as far from the beginning, I guess. What’s -what made you interested in Rugby, and did you play before, and any kind of good stuff.

Coach Ryan Burke: Yeah, we’ll I played high school football and then I went to Chico State California to play football and then they cancelled the program. My- so it was my junior year, and I remember watching the Rugby players like Rug-by and I remember, you know, the football attitude, at least was, you now, “Screw those guys and whatever they got, we got more and all that kind of stuff”, and then mucho attitude, and not a whole lot of sportsmanship. And I’m, you know, once they cancel the program, I was like, “What am I going to do?” You know, I want to play physical contact sport. And I was with this 2 year, so I played Rugby for 2 years. So, I went to join the team and they were so welcoming. I remember 2 of my future roommates I lived with at that Rugby house and very good friends today. One of them helps coach now. They were just so welcoming. And I was just like, I didn’t see me play, there wasn’t, you know-whether I was going to be good or bad. And they were just so welcoming and just kept inspiring to come back and so, I stuck it out and played touch in the beginning, and I played some Summer Sevens. I, just to kind of, learn the sport before I went to play that per season.

And I love the – sportsmanship didn’t really get it in Sevens because I didn’t understand how to- it hadn’t become a part of me as it did, you know, my first season. And didn’t really, you now, college Rugby was a whole other deal besides Summer Sevens with a men’s club with the singing of songs and hanging out with each other a lot more after the game. One on one, teams to one, one versus a big group of people. And I remember my first season, there was- we had 2 weeks of double days. It was during an El Niño in the ‘90s. And it was just pouring out rain. It’s just a commitment. I felt that I was going through a boot camp. And so, you know, it gave me better focus on than my boot camp would. It’d be something they would never forget and it’s the desire to, you know, do the best you can and improve on so many levels and the pride that you have that you were one of the guys showing up all the time and putting in the work as needed to be successful. And I played and started it, and my coach on Seven said that I’d be a B side player. So, he actually is one of the guys who helped start the Oakland Warthogs. So thank him for telling me that because it pushed and drove me harder to work harder for it. And then just playing and being with the team and it’s the sportsmanship and camaraderie and- I used to get in awful lot of fights in high school and even in college, I’ve gotten into some fights. And on the Rugby field it was just a different respect that I had for people. And, you know I didn’t have people swinging a punch of me after a player or whatever, and just say, “Come on man, we’re playing Rugby, like that’s not this game.” And it made me really wonder why I ever wasted my time on football. Like really, I got just going from being a blocker, to getting to do everything. We just-that was exciting to be able to tackle and run the ball, and it was a blast. And it’s I don’t know, how to ex- I don’t think anybody could ever explain how someone gets his passion about Rugby. It sounds like you’re already that. I am, it’s something that you experience. And it’s something that, you know, no one could ever understand if they don’t have it like many things, you know.

But I just really felt that I am not playing for some men’s clubs afterwards and the last team I played for, they were- I felt like a bunch of hippies. I was like, “Gosh, why are we all so nice, and loving, and talking about like being positive and not, you know, picking on each other and not talking to the Ref. Just so as more so of that I’d ever experienced before, but that’s what worked. It was being positive with each other and really being truly just confident, and no matter what happens, it doesn’t matter. It’s our next play we got to make, and you got to adapt. And so, you know, having played with that team and having to change the way I was about my sportsmanship and being a teammate, it really did taught me so much about what works, and how much better Rugby is when you play that way, and how much everything is a lot better when you’re that way about things.

And so, I’ve taken a lot of that and brought that to the Warthogs. And when I was first invited to come to help all of them, I said, “Hey, one thing I don’t want to be an assistant coach. I want to be one of the head coaches, or I want to be one of the guys that people have to listen to. And then I also want to make sure that the programs improves the kids character” because sport to me is just so similar to life, and that you have a plan, you know, you got to go out, you call the plan, “This is what I’m going to do.” Something happens and it’s a challenge or if you make a mistake, and you don’t have time to waste worrying about it. You got to take a next step and then moving forward. I wish I did that more in my own life. But I’m the rugby field. That’s what I did, you know.

RugbyNation.com: You know what’s funny is we’ve got pretty similar stories about football and transitioning to Rugby because I remember hearing about Rugby and all that kind of stuff but, you know, the reason why I got so passionate about Rugby and I-I didn’t really learn about Rugby until after I’d already graduated from college. So I joined the national club team that was in a neighboring college after I’d already graduated from college just because I’m one of those kinds of guys that finished the high school season of football, and then you wonder what’s next. And you can’t really go out and buy pads or rent pads, join a club for football, and then what I realized in Rugby is that, in football, sometimes, you don’t even see, because I was a lineman. And sometimes, you don’t even see what happened in the play, you’re so completely disconnected, you just do your one job all the time, and that’s it. And then the play is over, and “Hey, what happened?” And then whatever, but in Rugby, you play offense, you play defense, you kick the football, you pass the ball, you catch the ball, and it is all in compassing and not only that, it’s like a band of brothers, military brothers. I’ve never been in the military but it just kind of feels like that kind of camaraderie because you’re in a full lawn brawl, I think. But it’s a gentlemanly brawl for an hour and a half, and you’ve got each other’s back and you’re bleeding on the field, and you love it.

Coach Ryan Burke: Yeah, absolutely, the last game I played in was the best game I ever played in and we lost the game by a little bit more, maybe a try. And I remember, we were playing a team that was supposed to destroy us in the playoff game and we’ve watched them destroy a team before, you know, the day before. And I remember thinking like, you know, I don’t know if our team has what it takes in the sense of like really being focused to come out here and do what we need to do today. And I remember, I was like, “Don’t talk to me, I’m going to get in the zone” and I went up there and I hit a rock as hard with everything I had. Then I got up and I saw my teammate hit a rock with everything and it was weird because, like energy went over the field like we’re all on the same page right now. And this is exciting because we can win this because everybody has stepped up.

And you know, we made a couple of mistakes that they take advantage of, but it was by far like- I couldn’t believe that a game that I lost was my favorite game I ever played in. And just the way the whole team was, and it was definitely something special, and it’s- I’d take that over any of the wins I had, you know, how everybody was that day and connected in that way and got to share that special moment. And I never had that any other sport wear, I felt like- when I played football, especially in college, I didn’t even know some of the guys’ names on the defense because we never hung out when it was just that – and just like you said and so, it wasn’t as inviting, it wasn’t- it’s just a whole different feeling. I think that, you know, if people are going to have opportunities in football, for my kids- I’ve had kids and they’re like, “Hey I got to miss the Saturday game because there is a special camp I’m going to go to.” And I’d even help, you know, sponsor them to go to the camp, but it’s only if it’s something I think that is going to give them an opportunity to get a scholarship, you know, but otherwise, it’s like, being here is going to make you a better football player, you know, so stick around and try to tell some of my kids are playing football right now, that “Hey, why don’t you go to summer Rugby camp? You know, we’ve got people to help sponsor for it” and they’re like, “Wow”. I said when we tell you-talk to your coaches, team, you got to be- come back better at Rugby and better at football, because that’s what it does. You know, I mean, I remember being a little afraid in football to hit something- someone with everything I had and I remember doing it in Rugby and going, “Oh my God, it doesn’t hurt.”

RugbyNation.com: Exactly.

Coach Ryan Burke: And I wish I could go back to football and put some pads on.

RugbyNation.com: Great.

Coach Ryan Burke: It’s- I don’t know. I think sport is second to none, and I don’t know, it’s because I’m biased. I don’t know what the cases, but I absolutely love with the sport. I love what it is at the professional levels, you know, and international, in the respect that, you know, shows, for each team, and you know, that I fight my breakout but it doesn’t last more than a couple of seconds and then they’re just, you know, right back at it, and I don’t how I manage, it just such a special sport for me. And it’s something that I feel so honored to be able to have participated in, that I want to give it to everybody I can and show them, and it’s been great to see the sport growing and I- it will never grow fast enough for us, right? Like I mean, I want it to be as- to be as good as it can but I really would love to see the country and especially the youth programs and the high schools like, really teach some a lot more than just the Rugby aspect of being a good team. But everything else about what Rugby can teach you and that’s even honoring the referee, you know, and a lot more than some coaches choose to do and even some of our coaches sometimes, you know, lose their patience with it, but I think there’s an awful lot to teach out of the sport and that kids will eventually, you know, when they’re in their careers or in their future with their families, they’ll have something that will remind them a foundation to be much better men and even women, you know, for women’s Rugby.

RugbyNation.com: Yup, absolutely. Ryan, tell me a little bit more about what position you hold right now and how many kids that you’re actually coaching and talk a little bit on, you know, on the reason-one of the reasons why you were touching them? This is when I told our mutual friend, Cameron, that how I started becoming even more passionate about the sport of Rugby as I told them that the last 2 years, I’ve going to the Rugby Seven Las Vegas tournament, and I’ve been going for the last of years. And that’s where the idea spawned for, you know what, this thing has really taken off in the country and I really, and I recognized that really my biggest passion is life Rugby, so as might as well do something about it. And when he told me that you lost some of your kids on the road trip back home from that tournament, I mean, I was just so sad, and that’s really a sad story. And on purpose, I decided not to research it so that I could hear it from you and I’d love to hear from you, you know, the story about that and what’s you’re doing now and anything you’d like to share.

Coach Ryan Burke: I’ll give you a little short story about the history of the program. All of you- they got into, like where these kids came from. We started, after our first 4 years, we averaged a win per season, and this season, we came out and really lost one game, and then winning the California Summer Division Varsity Championships, which was the best of 32 teams from Fresno to Sacramento. And to the kids that were in the car I think there were 18 or 19. They were them, their sister and a friend were- went to Rugby Sevens, Las Vegas Sevens and then had a great time and then they came back with a current player that’s friends with them and they’re all like family, someway or another and they’re just driving back and they had been up all night walking the strip and hanging out, and they- on the drive back, one of our former players was driving. They actually had switched who is going to drive because one of the people was tired and they were running late and -about 5 hours late from when they were supposed to leave and get back home. Their parents had allowed them to rent a car and go all by themselves for the first time. And they just kind of like, you know, pushed their parents and said, “Hey, when are you going to let me be an adult? Let me go do this,” you know, “We want to go have fun” and they went on, and the parents, you know, had all of each kid and agreed, you know, now was the time to let them go do what they want to do. When they were driving back, I think the driver passed out at the wheel and the sole survivor saw it occur, like saw him nod off. And by that time, the car had rolled a few times. And 3 appeared to pass out. And they were four of them passed away and there was one survivor who had to get a back surgery. He was a current player this season. They had gone to the Sevens and we went visit him in the hospital and we brought the guy, Chris O’Brien, who coaches the USA Eagles. He’s one of the Backs coaches. He’s also an Oakland firefighter. And they’ve sponsored our program last 3 years and he contacted me and we got, Blaine Scully to come out and meet with Hunter, the kid in the hospital. And just you know we try to see how he was doing and that’s when I talked to him and said, “Hey, you know, it’s all going to come out so be straight with me. Were you guys drinking, or any of that kind of stuff?” And he was like, “No coach, we were just out really late.” You know, “Eating a lot”. They love to eat. So I was like, agreeing a lot. That was really late, you know, he just passed out the wheel.

And you know, there was some talk about that he had seen, you know, he was awake and couldn’t move because of his back, and you know saw his friends, you know, passed away. It was pretty hard being with some people that -driven by the accident, I know it was them, but knew them. And it was, I mean, it was tragic. It was tragic to lose, you know, 2 kids. One of the kids was just, he was a quiet guy but worked hard, was very committed, would show up to every community service we had, was very ideal, and didn’t talk a lot, just showed by action and, you know, had a lot respect from a lot of people because he would talk to them. You know, not necessarily at the game or at practice or what not, but when they hung out. And he was, you know, was same things that I’m about, you know, working hard and all those things and, they both come from great families and their brother, you know, some have brothers who play for us or have played for us. And so, I learned an awful lot about the Polynesian culture and how they go through the funeral and what’s not. And it’s something I never had experience before but it’s very loving and very family oriented and they spent an awful lot of time over those 2 weeks supporting each other. You know, it’s crazy, I said, you know, where I’m from, you know, you-someone passes away, you bury, I mean, you know, unless they’re real close, you know. You know, you don’t think about it whole lot afterwards, you know, and-

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: But, you know, they passed away and it-it affected the team for sure and it affected kids in ways that I didn’t know but try to bring it, you know, discuss it at practice and say hey, this is a chance for us. This is the bond that will bring us closer together. And you know if you guys want to dedicated season to them all, you know, you’re welcome to do that. But realize that in doing that, when you-if you choose to that if you choose not to come to practice and you choose not to work hard, you’re dishonoring the commitment that you made to them. And I was hoping-was hoping that it would bring the team together and there’s always, specially the dinner city kids, there’s a different way to motivate how to learn in a little bit. You learn something about it every year, you know.

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: And it was definitely-it came together towards the end of the season. But I think that I-base on the way that they acted and the way, you know, you could-you’re trying to read them, I think that it affected them more than they ever kind of you know, showed. And towards the end of the season, they started to pull it together but it definitely, you know, was a challenging – we all went to the funeral and we all, you know. The thing that was really neat to me is we actually got to bury the kids with actually shoveling the dirt onto- and I had never done that before and I felt so honored. One of the mothers, as soon as we start burying them, said, where are the Rug-where is the Rugby team? -which really made clear to me how important our program was to this family and to this kid. And it was really neat because I didn’t know that that’s what this program meant for some people. And they were so dedicated, you know, to the program because of-and they said, you know, when we were you know, seeing them surely after the accident, we talked to the parents. I was wondering how they were doing and ask, and they said, you know, we have no regrets in letting them go because they were doing what they loved most in life which is Rugby and watching Rugby. Unlike for kids that are just getting out of high school, to have that kind of passion for this sport, you know, I only played in high school. And there’s a lot a bit in their culture but, it was great that they shared what we share, you know? And to know that the parents were more regretful that they were letting their kids be, you know, grow up and do what they love. They said, you know, I would have been hurt more if it was something else where I’d held them from doing what they love, you know, and so, that was neat.

And you know, just going here on out. You see, it was just a surprise, you know, like you-you know, coming from Oakland, I’ve always-not always. There’s been an little fear on the back of my mind of losing a player to getting violence or shooting, or any kind of that stuff. And we’ve been bless to not have that happen. But man, losing any kid, you know, that you’re close with or that you got the opportunity to coach and they were great kids when they were with us. I mean, one of the other kids, George, he was so hilarious. One of the funniest guys put a smile on his face. And lose two really, really neat kids like that were also close to us. I’d seen one of them about three weeks earlier. He came by practice. Not call-we didn’t call him or any, just showed up to see how the team was doing. And it was so exciting that an alum-when alumni does that. When they show up to see what’s going on and then you talked to them, hey what’s you plan? What are you doing? How’s school going and all that kind of stuff. And it was really neat and I felt less that I got to see him shortly before the accident. I have a really great conversation with him and you know, tell him how much I appreciate him showing up to the practice. So, it was definitely-I mean it was- it was tough.

RugbyNation.com: Yeah.

Coach Ryan Burke: You know.

RugbyNation.com: What’s the full name of your team and you’re in Oakland, California right?

Coach Ryan Burke: Yeah, it’s the Oakland Warthogs.

RugbyNation.com: Oakland Warthogs.

Coach Ryan Burke: So, we go by the Oakland Warthogs. Youth Rugby program and we have-we tend to run from eight grader to 12th grade because there is no younger Rugby in the area. So, if an eight grader is like big enough or we’re not worried about injury because of their size or whatnot, then we’ll plan-I’ve got a seventh grader played for us. He’s the sophomore this season. We just put him in a wing. He’s back on, you know, playing you know, big strong teams. And that kid, he’s played five seasons. He’s right now going-he got invited to try outs for high school, Americans. He’ll be the first Oakland Warthog to have done that. And so, it’s-we usually-we run about 30-30 to 40 kids a season and then, last season we had 60 kids show up, which ones won, at school really bought into it -kind of depleted after a couple of kids didn’t really like it, maybe six or seven kids out of the 60. But we had to do two teams. It’s a great problem to have but it’s definitely coordination issues, you know.

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: But, I mean like realistically, having championships and winning. To me, I don’t care if we win or lose. I care that we want to win and we work to win.

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: But, end of the day, it’s-I’d rather, you know, I don’t mind losing to a better team, you know? But I don’t want to lose what we should have won, you know, those kinds of things. But I’d rather- these kids get so much more of the program that what we’re teaching about going to school, that academics comes first. And all the requirements that we have for them to participate in games, it’s all first. And if we need them canceled-the next year, after our championship year, we told the kids, you have two more weeks to turning your grades. If you don’t turn your grades, we’re going to shut the season down and you cannot defend your championship. We ended up having half the kids turn in their grades. They were half like somewhere not complete grades and were not, so we shut it down. And that year the team that won the championships, we had shut up during the season. And so I showed the kids, you could have won it and they were so pissed off at me at first, because they didn’t know how to take responsibility about it. There were few kids-there are few kids that end up, you know, realizing what had occurred. The captain had told me whose one of the kids that turned half of his grades and called me and text on the phone and said, hey, I want to apologize to you that you had to cancel the season. I would want to apologize to you for not being the captain you wanted me to be and for not pushing the rest of the players to do what we needed to do. I mean this kid blew me away. Kid was never liked that. He’s got brothers that are kind of going down the wrong road all the time or not taking the best of paths. And I was really pushing that at least out of their shadow and he was the captain this year and he didn’t come around the way I didn’t – wanted. But at the end of the season, you could see the difference and the relationship we have now after, you know, him and two older brothers have graduated. Even my relationship with those guys is good and they have come back to think me for what they got out of the program. And you know, they’re not doing perfect but they’re doing better than they would have. I could see it and they’d even told me that. It’s just, it’s the need to be able to change lives in that way and the grate thing is really, it’s really just-some of these kids are such excellent athletes but they don’t have the grades. And I tell, you don’t have the grades, it doesn’t matter how good an athlete, you are because no one’s going to, you know, pay for you going to school-

RugbyNation.com: Can you pinpoint one of the kids that most excited in your mind that you know Rugby has changed his/her life and could-just tell me a little bit about that.

Coach Ryan Burke: Yeah, so the biggest-the best thing that came out of our Rugby program to me was a kid, Felipe Lopez who was the small scale on the field at all times. His senior year, he was a racking machine and he was always protecting the ball. And even the biggest guy of the team said, I want to tell you right now, like in front of everybody like you were handling business from, you know, fully – He said, you know, even I wasn’t doing it you know.

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: But like, you know, it’s great to see this little guy get the respect for playing as a big, as such a big player. He’s first season, no big deal. He played hooker [Inaudible 0:26:48]. His second season, he missed the entire season because of grades. He wasn’t bringing-and I told him, “Don’t come to practice. Just go home and get you homework done.” He missed the entire second season. Third season he came back. He was the most improve student on the team. He was the original winner of the Warthog award, which was, you know, like a manager’s award or something. And you know, those just everything that we’re trying to, you know, add- out of this program for each kid. He ended up-he was going to quit his third season because he had to work, the guy—for his family. And he-he said I got to quit and I said, “Work in my house.” You’ll work in my yard. I teach you how to work. And he came over his first day. I worked with him. Showed him what I wanted. Told him, “I’ll just show you what I want. Next time, I’m going to leave you alone.” And the kid wouldn’t standstill. [Inaudible 0:27:36] which is bothersome, because I was like – own him through my back, you know, but he was such and awesome kid. Showed up on time, communicated, did everything that most kids in Oakland absolutely have no idea of or struggle with so hard and he learned so quickly and he just did what he was told. He ended up-you know, I ended up hammering along the second day about what I expected and said, “Hey, you know, I understand that this is tough, but you got to get this done and get- try to work as many hours and whatnot.” And then I left him alone and he came to my door before he went home. And he said, you know, I really screwed up today. I’m sorry about it. I’m going to come back on Thursday and finish up for free. You don’t have to pay me. And I said, don’t worry about that. I just want you to learn from this. Just make sure it doesn’t happen again, right. You know, just handle it. The kid had like then from then on up, like yard was [Inaudible 00:28:28]. And I ended up getting him a job with someone who was [Inaudible 0:28:33] of Warthogs. He wants a job. I got the perfect guy. He got a job two weeks later. I got call about how awesome that kid is. The guy got him more jobs with other people, you know; people-you know the boating business. He was someone that I told him you know when I’m giving your name out. You’re presenting me. You’re presenting the Warthogs. And you’re representing yourself and you need to make sure that you come through like I’ve taught you, you know.

Kid won’t-has never let me down. I mean, I’ve had a conversations with him about what would you do if I called you and told you, well- what do you think I would do if I called you and told you, you do something you didn’t do. He goes, “That wouldn’t happen”, and it’s so true. I mean he’s just-he’s phenomenal and I think, having lost out his second season because of grades and seeing his friends having fun on the field, he wanted so bad to come back and he really worked hard at classroom. English was his second language so I was asking, “Why are you struggling in school?” And he said, “I have to read things three or four times because I don’t understand them.” At that time we didn’t have tutoring, we didn’t have those kinds of things so it was a real struggle for him. He ended up-he end-we took him to Chico State. We take our kids to Chico State a couple of times for a campus tour and we do a camping trip out there and show kids some life outside of Oakland and get to do things a bit they don’t get to do here. And he loved it. He loved Chico. He loved the whole deal and I’m a Construction management and I got Construction Management in Chico. He ended up—he’s going to stud-this next semester, he’s going to Chico State. And he’s going to be studying Construction management. He did two years Atlantic College, Junior College in Town and worked. Both times he is working to help his family and he’s going to school full time. And he just didn’t make any time for Rugby because he wanted to do this. You have to take the- do the other things that you need to do to get out. And he ended up going – getting his citizenship with no help. I just said you got to get it. Figure it out. It’s all on you. No one else is going to help you. Go get it done and he all by himself, which blew me because I’m sure there’s a built under that- have hard time with that.

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: So he did it. He did it fast. I went car shopping with him. He saved 10,000 dollars from working. And I told him – he taught that he saved 10,000 dollars for a vehicle. And I told no, you saved 10,000 dollar for school. But I’ll let you spend 3,000 dollar on like [Inaudible 00:30:51] I’m going to tell you everything I can like before you make a big decision just ask me what my input is then you get to make the decision. But let just me give some information so you can make the best decision you can. And he’s – he’s [Inaudible 00:31:07] and argue with me, you know, respectively argued. I disagreed duh, duh, duh. And then I talked a little bit more. 2 hours later I get a text. I think I made a mistake. I want to do what you said. And then goes and does it and then it’s hap – it just – he bought a car that he didn’t he was going to want- got a real great deal on it. But it all end up working out. The kid is a success after success after success. And I just recently got him an internship with competitor Construction Company because mine was a little difficult to get him through. So I just said, you know, I know someone who will help you out. They love him over there. And I mean he – I’m so proud of him and it’s from being the ramp of the pack to not playing anything like that, not making any excuses, you know, and just busting his butt and getting it done. And if any team could have someone like that, you know, if you had a bunch of those guys you’re certainly successful. So which is – I look him and I look at the success and it’s definitely changes life. And his dad use to rag on him about that, you know, why are you tackling a bunch boys. And, you know, I think and I just said, you know, his parents didn’t even want him to go to college. His parents want him as a source of income. And I told him I have an extra room in my house. You need to go to college. You need to make – you need to be successful for your future family. And if you need to stay at my place you’re more than welcome. My wife was so welcoming and said yeah , you know, he needs a room, it’s fine- just a phenomenal kid. And very, very proud of him and, you know, he loves Rugby to death. Even if he won’t play college or whatever the case maybe, you know, he might feel like the size an issue. He still loves it, loves watching it. Always comes out and supports – comes out to community services, comes out to games. I couldn’t ask for a more – more well rounded, you know, excellent a kid. And I guarantee – I know for a fact that it was this program that made that difference. And have we not had it, there’s no way – you know, I’ve met. And created the bond that we did there’s no way he would be- he would not be going to school right now, you know, and he’s what reminds me of why I want to stay, you know, keep doing this and although I love it and although it’s been very challenging at times I feel like absolutely like – unless I can find someone who can do it as well or better, you know, which is I’m still looking.

RugbyNation.com: Well, you know what? You know, what’s funny is that I always thought that size mattered in Rugby too but the other night I was recoding – I record a lot of Pro Games and been watching it all – a lot of them. The Smallest guy on the team I swear this guy, he couldn’t have been taller than 5’5″ or 5’4″ He was the absolute Rock star of team. He was the fastest guy. Nobody could catch him. And he would just squeeze through the gaps like nobody’s – like nobody’s business. And rocked like a madman. And he was the – he was the hero of the team. You know, let me get your thoughts on the growth of Ruby in the US and also the Olympics, your thought on that and where this country is going. You know, RugbyNation.com is going to be international. And the purpose of it is for more people to learn about the heart of Rugby and to have a one stop hub to be able to get all the information they need and get passionate about it. And for – for Rugby coaches like yourself to start your own blog within there and post your information about your team and everything. And also players and all that stuff but besides that because we do live in the US the other purpose of RubyNation.com is – is to help in any possible to get the US to become tear one Rugby Nation that can compete in the biggest stages of the world against other top tear one teams and win. You know? Give me your opinion on the growth of US Rugby and also the Olympics.

 

Coach Ryan Burke: Well, I noticed a lot of growth but I feel like Lacrosse is growing a lot faster than us in just, you know, seeing. And it’s such a weird thing because I don’t – I think Lacrosse if a typically super Caucasian sport where, you know, different diversity in Rugby over the years. I have one Caucasian family team. And it’s – so it’s been surprising and I don’t know what the draws to Lacrosse. I don’t – I’ve never been excited about looking to- want to play that or I don’t know what the draw is still but –

RugbyNation.com: Yeah, me neither.

Coach Ryan Burke: If we could find out what that is and utilize that- may be learn from some of the things that they’re doing to continue growing our sport even faster. I think I don’t know why a lot of people think that Rugby players are crazy because of the physical contact and some people are fearful of it. I think you could get kids maybe youth programs early that go away, you know, because they’re playing tag and then they learn to love the sport for the contact. And if I don’t know I wish that- it’s a big effort. It’s takes a lot from a lot of people. But I wish that the United States could get on one page or on maybe three pages but everybody having it very [Inaudible 00:36:42] program and what they’re teaching or- what they’re teaching their players to an extent in a sense that when players get to the Olympic level they’ve had a very similar background in how they’ve been trained. I think that would assist in bringing the team – the team atmosphere closer together. I think it’s very difficult with the little amount of time our players have to- that they spend with each other, the bond before going to an international match which I think is very important. And, you know, them being paid so they can just focus on Rugby versus having to have a job, you know, 8 hours a day minimum and then going and playing Rugby where they can train more of the day. There’s things that we need to be able to compare to these other nations in their Rugby.

I do think that there would a great yield if – if everybody – if – it’s kind of crazy because even if that’s similar to world, but if you could get everybody collaborate about what works. Well, the things I have requested is that, you know, in our league is that, “Hey, why don’t you start a page about fundraising?” And every team gives you opinions on how they did it, what works, what doesn’t work. Like when I go to run my first crab team, I’m having to learn all the hard lessons of running a crab team. It’s something I got like, you know, a chi-chi could. I’m not fighting for the same community as they are, right? I mean [Inaudible 00:38:13] no need to be worried about me running a crab team, you know?

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: And I even offered all the things that we had done that season and what worked and what didn’t- grass and all these kind of things. I really, really think we’d be so better off to just to work with each other, you know. There’s always going to be a rivalry between teams in a sense. But if the teams can get along in a brotherly, you know the brotherly level where you’re looking to help each other out. It’s only going to grow our game so much faster. And I think, you know, like especially high school if they focused on, you know, being collaborative and working together and working for the benefit. If we don’t look at what we’re really to create or everybody has the intent to creating amazing Rugby players. They get to play the next level. One for an opportunity for that player to live and establish an amazing life experience that – that I would love to have but I’ll never have. But also, you know, you help the guy get to the national team. I think that would – if we could find what that final goal is and [Inaudible 00:39:23] similar case, you get to that goal I think it would improve things quite a bit. And I’m all in collaborating with each other and telling each other what works and what doesn’t because there are some teams out there that are going extremely well in that and there’s some teams that are doing extremely poorly in it. And we could find a medium where, you know, everybody could be doing really well with it. But I’m excited. I thought like when I was watching the Ireland Game, USA versus Ireland watching how the much sport seem to be growing the way that they were marketing it. I feel like they did a great a job and I totally bought into it. And like a couple of days later I just kind of realized where we really are, where the growth of this sport is right now, you know.

 

RugbyNation.com: You know, that – I’ll tell you that – that game was so frustrating to me. It was just like there as if the referee was treating the US Team as high school team trying to spoon feed and teach them how to play the game. And just the game was just stopped too many times. And it was so frustrating and I’m sure I don’t know enough about Rugby to understand what the referee was trying to do. But just if – if somebody knew to the – to Rugby in the US would have watched that game, they would have walked away and never come back probably. But – but there is some and towards the end of the Tonga-US Game, you know, and it started getting that slow again. The referee was trying to do the same type of things. But I honestly think that what’s really making the sport of Rugby grow so fast in the US is Sevens. And the reason being is because most Americans don’t understand Rugby. And it’s had to understand all the rules with 15’s or 18’s and stuff. But all you have to do is tell them hot potato and Rugby Sevens and they get most of it. and – and not only that it’s hard hitting, it’s fast, it’s lots of scoring and it’s just exciting to watch. But I also think that more; more of the six tackle Rugby in the US. It’s a lot faster and also easier for Americans to understand. That would also be another one they would help to grow the sport in the US a lot faster than it is. That’s just my opinion but what do you think?

Coach Ryan Burke: Yeah, I think – I think the introduction of Sevens is so quick. It’s 14 minute game versus watching an 80 minute game of something you have no clue about. It’s fast. I don’t like sevens. I like – I tried watching it this weekend. And I actually really like some of the USA Sevens players. I’ve met a few of them. And there were times that I watch Sevens like college Sevens I’ve enjoyed. But one of the reasons I was watching it the World Cup. And I don’t know if it the bad day or whatever. But I wasn’t really enjoying it. And it’s because I’ve been watching so much the team and I love the team. And so but definitely the growth of sport, I think Sevens is a good introduction. And then I remember the first 6 games I watched before I played I could never figure it out. I didn’t have anybody explaining it to me there, but it was just like well why is this- because I knew the basics of the game with the score but didn’t understand. In the- even, you know, through my first two years it was a struggled to understand why. Well what is hands-in- the-ruck or what do you mean like play worm on the ground. You know, and all those things. But it’s that’s why its been neat, you know, here in the Bay Area there’s a few new teams that starting, you know, under age and what not. Like my son is three and half. I can’t wait for him to be able to, you know, where I’m going to take to go to. But he loves watching the Mahaka. He loves acting Mahaka. He loves coming to Warthogs practices and games and he loves tackling [Inaudible: 00:43:30] mellow that up for school and. But loved it and I don’t know I think it’s – I don’t know I’m sure it’s because I love it. But, you know, there’s also- we watch on TV on together and stuff. I really need to share that with my son. And I think that there’s a lot of – a lot of crossover sport and, you know, I hope it’s one good sport that he impressed over to me. And to Rugby I mean be successful in Rugby as well. And I think the point on that- and there’s got to be some way that we show football coaches not to be afraid of Rugby and not to be worried about stolen players because of the different seasons and all kind of stuff. But I’ve even reached out, you know, to football coaches to say, “Hey, if you have – I don’t care if you give me your worst players. Send them to our program we’ll make them better for next season.” You know, we’ll play with them next year or some things. They just don’t want to participate whatsoever. I mean I’m just talking Facebook or e-mail not a single response. And it’s unfortunate because I feel like if there some opportunities where it’s vice versa. I’m looking after the kids. I don’t care if I’m going to have the best program. Yeah, it’d be great to have the best program in the nation or something like that. But that’s not the intention of what we’re doing, you know, so I think – I think that definitely, you know, Sevens is going to help out. And it’d be great to get the Olympics. It’d be great if we’re really good by then. It’s actually, you know, competing for a medal. But it’s not, you know, we have good tournaments and then bad tournaments, right? I mean we were doing really well earlier in the season and we didn’t do so well this one. It’s just consistency as well. I mean I don’t know what the answer is and there’s some way more experienced people doing this and working with those teams and they have guides. And I know that they’re working – and it seems to me like they’re even working harder where they’re showing us what they do now, you know, because it’s been great to see and hear about all the fitness and nutrition that’s necessary to play it at that level. And you know, for our kids to understand so they eat Cheetos before games or stuff-maybe, you know so –

RugbyNation.com: Well, you know, what – you know, on behalf rugbynation.com I want to thank you for what you’re doing for those kids Oakland because that’s- I think, you know, it’s a labor of love what you’re doing. And not only, I mean, are you going to be very blessed and very, you know, -make so many great friends and influence so many people’s lives, but also it breeds into your personal life. And it makes your life a lot better doing and that makes it a lot happier. And, you know, some of the things that I took away from this interview, from you, is I think I really like you – your thoughts on somehow we got to figure out a way that all US teams can be on the same page. I really love your opinion on, you know, teaching the same thing, being on the same page and educating even football coaches or of Rugby and how beneficial that can be as a crossover to football as well. And also how we need to figure out what the heck Lacrosse is doing that we need to mimic or do better so that we can get more – more kids into Rugby. And also get on earlier on – and then also figuring out a way that the US can actually get players to be paid so that they’re not having to have full time jobs while they’re training to try to compete against the world elite. And also one of the last things that you said was- and hopefully RugbyNation.com can help in this to figure out a way that teams can share with each other what fund raising activities work. So that, you know, you can have bigger and better programs. And I hope I – I captured those ideas well for you. And I’d like to as best as I can with website to be able to accomplish those things.

Coach Ryan Burke: Well I think one of the biggest – well there’s a few things that I want tell you that one it’s very easy for me to fund raise because of – I believe so much of what I’m doing. And I’m helping inner city kids through Rugby through youth development. It’s easy to – it’s much easier for someone who is helping inner city children versus somebody’s whose playing a man’s sport, right? Like when I was President’s for a men’s club, you couldn’t get – you might get a beer sponsor if you’re lucky or a bar. As I wrote to Warthogs President, I’ve gone after anybody and everybody, you know, no alcohol but everything else, and I don’t see it as a charity activity. It’s and investment. I mean it an investment in the young kids in Oakland and I think that we’ve had extremely- we’ve proven we had more result time and time again. I only told you about one of 20 kids that I could tell you about who got extraordinary changes in their lives. But it’s really- I care about the kids. So I think for youth Rugby and high school I think we all care. We all know we’re making a difference in each kid we coach.

But I think when that’s truly what your – that’s your main focus is making the difference and -in the kids – the Rugby in fact is so secondary and it is so easy to come. It’s just really to me I would hate to – there are coaches that are going to be after the-. They’re so competitive and they’re all about winning. And that’s the least – that’s the last thing to worried about when we’re trying to, you know, prepare our kids for the future and their lives and their families. I think when you – when I talk to people who are not really giving into the piece of the program. I’m very passionate and it shows. And when I’m – when I get the children talking to somebody I know something’s happening on that side of the table. I know what I feel and I get it. The – it’s really about what you put in as well. My family sacrificed is quite a bit for me to be able to do this. My wife takes care of my kids an awful lot without me around. I try to minimize that which practice I go to and try to get the coaches to run the program to an extent. But when it’s not on a field, everything else is me. So getting the money to one of coach’s house for fund raising everything administratively is me. And I’m not ever happy with being okay. I’m always looking what we can improve next. Not in the way that I should to the kids, but in a way that I want to make our program better and serve more kids and make a bigger difference. And with all that said it’s like what you put in is what I get – you know, what you put is what you get out and when -I got busy with work one time. And I had to stop coaching. And I told the coaches, “Guys I need you to take care of it. I’m so busy. There’s no way I can make it practice.” And I ended up burning out the job. And having to take time off work and I found out that it was this program and what I get out of it that, you know, by mentoring kids and spending time with them and being at the practice that’s what fed me to keep going to and that’s what reenergized me and taking that out of my life was not – not helpful. So the point I’m trying to make is this, what you put in is what you get put. And the more you pour your heart and soul on something the more rewarding it is when you see a kid, you know, go – we have a kid that lives in a dangerous neighborhood in Oakland, sleeps on a couch and his dad is paraplegic from, you know, from having a stroke. And this kid who has nothing he sent – he played one year for us. We sent him to Elite Rugby USA Camp. He got noticed by Matt Sherman, was offered to go to U20 tryouts, national tryouts. Went to tryouts but missed the first half of the first day and told me I just do what my parents say. Explain to them – you have to explain. Why don’t share it like it was a call recruiting for football. And he goes I never thought to. And I said where that’s your mistake is. Realize the opportunity that as in front of him made the team, won the junior world championship last year with the Under 20’s national team in Utah. He was in Utah and the [Inaudible 00:52:54] Utah. And this year he went to France and played in the world championship. We got destroyed but that wasn’t the point. The kid went to France and like, “Oh, this kid go to France.” When we go to Canada, when we do anything –

RugbyNation.com: You know what I saw? I saw him playing Utah then because they played Japan for the final, right?

Coach Ryan Burke: Yeah, yeah.

RugbyNation.com: That was the absolute, most amazing game ever. The Japanese were playing so good the crowd was actually cheering for both sides. It was such a great Rugby game. And I literally came down to like the last five yards and the US pulled out. That was the most – one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

 

Coach Ryan Burke: He went through that and then came back. And, you know, we came on a trip. I sat down with him said, “So, what’s your plan?” He’s LDS so was like I want to do mission. I said you want to do your mission before school or after school? You got to go to school. And so he choose I want to do it before. So we just planned out what were his – you know what would be left for him when got back, how we are going to work on all that. Then he went to France, played. He went to Las Vegas trained like crazy, went and made the team again to go back – to go France this year. I just talked to him yesterday. And I said hey how everything in France. And it was like man, it was something I’ll never forget. And he said I’m no even in trouble with a couple of kids who don’t have telephones that I’m trying to Cal Rugby Camp and they are not communicating. And I’m out on issues and I just need you to handle this because just like you didn’t recognize the opportunity in front of you I need you to share that with them. And they listen to you and I want you to have a talk. And he’s like anytime, anything, and the loyalty and allegiance. And it’s just that – it’s just his gratitude that his willing to pay back for what we have done together to get him there. And I was just like man, if I could have – you know and I have lot of those kids usually they come about two or three years later. And they have that kind of attitude but this kid had it right away. And it’s great because it just keeps everything going well. You know, with everybody and then you give them the opportunity to make a difference in one of their friend’s lives, you know. By then getting half of the conversation and it’s neat to see them excited to do that. And to see the other kids because sometimes that’s who is going to take to motivate these kids, you know.

But it’s definitely our program special. I wish there were – I wish I knew that a lot of other programs are doing things very similar to us because – but I know that every program is got to be helping kids in some way. But it would just be great to know that, you know, the spirit of Rugby is being caught everywhere, the spirit of a social afterwards where you’re hosting you let them eat first, and you welcome them and let then sit down and eat before you eat. Those little things- I walked in a courthouse and they were eating before us and they were eating better food. And my captain goes, “Why are they eating, coach?” And I was like I was glad you know that, right? And we have nothing and now we’re from Oakland. We have absolute nothing. And to go these places that have everything and they act it. And they – it just – it’s one thing it’s not Rugby to me. And it’s never – I’ve never seen it anywhere where people believe that that’s Rugby or you know, gloating that you’re the best is just undeliverable like when our kids are stoked about a game, I’d say, you win like a man and you lose like a man. You know, like you go shake hands and you honor the people that you just played. If you don’t sit there and won-I’ve had guys like you know, they lose; they get all mad that they lost. They don’t want to shake hands. I’m like, that’s football guys. That’s not Rugby. You know, the game is over. We’re friends now. We go do other things and-

RugbyNation.com: Yeah. You know I want to touch real quick on those things that you were talking about that these are some of the core elements that I think make Rugby what it is and why I’m so passionate about it is, number one for example like, the referee is to be respected and it’s a gentleman’s game. And he doesn’t really have to raise his voice. His voice is law and you obey it and you’re respectful to him. You know, number two, you don’t fight on the field. This is a gentleman’s game. Number three, when you go to another team and you’re traveling, that team is supposed to feed you, right, after the game.

Coach Ryan Burke: Yeah.

RugbyNation.com: As far as I remember when I played the game, after the game was over, they feed you and they also wait for you to start eating for them to start anything as well, as you said. And, really the purposes of the game, no matter win or lose or whatever is to make new friends and to become life long friends as Rugby players. Any other tidbits you’d like to add that it actually add to that culture.

Coach Ryan Burke: You know one thing about you use-so, it definitely the hosting is a part of it. But you are in a fraternity and I’ve never been in the fraternity before except for my sports, right? And I went to Ireland after I graduated. And long story short, I was in an internet café. A girl, American girls are hitting on my buddy that was with me. She said, you want to go back and have some drinks in our house, at my house and her friends, an Irish, the Irish guy and he didn’t seem to look happy, right? I was like, “You know, we’re going to have a good time. Your buddy doesn’t look happy. I don’t think he wants us there.” We’ll go ahead and ask, you know, they were fine. She said, “Don’t worry about him. Let’s just go.” So we start walking and the first three minutes, I told them, I play Rugby. He was-he had played for their junior national team. From then on out, we were brothers. And it was-I mean the guy- his dad owned a pub, took me to the pub the next day like you know, you could stay at my place. And I mean, it was more than just being Irish and he was so friendly. It was –

RugbyNation.com: Exactly.

Coach Ryan Burke: It’s everywhere you go and anybody I run into to, I tend to be someone who- I don’t like people right away. Like, I just, you know, I’m judgmental or whatever the case maybe. But when someone says they play Rugby, they like get five stars on my book already. It’s like okay, well now, I know what we can talk about. Or now, it’s-but it’s incredible and it’s more so a brotherhood and I’ve had just a tourist that I didn’t even know from New Zealand. We had just come back from our honeymoon about six months later. The guy’s walking around plays Rugby and I’m just like, here’s my card. I live under the side of the bay. If you need anything while you’re here, call me, you know.

RugbyNation.com: Exactly.

Coach Ryan Burke: I mean, I don’t know any other sports that, you know, you could say I play soccer, the world’s most popular sport and it doesn’t matter-

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: -that you play soccer. You know, and it’s, I think what it is, is that bond that’s created by going through hell by the game. and doing the things like splitting an eye open, running off, getting it stitched and getting it taped up and running back on the field because your team needs you. It’s that kind of like sacrifice for each other that I think chain-look at an NFL guy. He watches guys to get front return. They start to fall before they could tackle, you know. Watch Rugby. They’re running through the tackle you know, and it’s something to be proud of and I think-

 

RugbyNation.com: Or what soccer players take a flop and fake. You know, soccer flops are just crazy even the NBA, they’re starting to do soccer flops in the NBA.

Coach Ryan Burke: Yeah.

RugbyNation.com: And it’s just insane. The Rugby players, you know, that’s why when I play basketball and even though the local church, I don’t even feel the fells. I get felled all over the place and it doesn’t even phase me out. I don’t even-do I like, okay, stop the ball? You just got felled ten times. I don’t even care because I played Rugby and that’s just the way we are, right?

Coach Ryan Burke: It’s a, I think too though it’s just as important about the “Machoness” and the pride in being tough as it is in the respect of only the captain talks to the ref. And I’ve asked refs, I told refs, and my kids talk to you, penalize them ten meters. Like just start centers back because I need the kids to learn to adapt too. You know, they got to learn to adapt and sometimes they don’t get it, like why do you keep-why we keep being penalized, just because you keep talking. Just be quiet and it’s also the-to you know, get them ready to the next level. In college, you know, like I don’t want them to be that Oakland kid that’s making the problems but yet, the Oakland kid is bringing everybody together and being respectful with the team and the referee and I mean, I have a lot more friends out of Rugby that I played with them the very beginning of Rugby since being a Rugby too. You know, now I coach so it’s not like I’m playing and I’m making friends playing on teams.

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: But all of my friends that I played Rugby with are solid brothers like when I go back and see them, it’s like we’re right on the same page. And there’s nothing like it. It’s, I have called-I have a few, you know, some friends-few friends from college, few friends from high school that I still talk to. But Rugby, it’s like I’ll never want to ever stop, you know, it’s just so enjoyable to hang out with them, you know.

RugbyNation.com: You know, the great example about what you said about Rugby referees is the Ireland versus US came, it was so frustrating and all the players were so frustrated with the ref. if it would been a soccer game, those guys would have been wining in his face, crying, yelling at him, maybe even spitting on him, maybe even trying to punch him out.

Coach Ryan Burke: Yeah.

RugbyNation.com: But the team captain, I mean, they’ll-the players really had to hold it together. It’s a gentleman’s game and it’s got to stay that way and we’ve got to teach that. And being a gentleman and being in sportsmanship, and in this sport is really is sportsmanship the way it’s supposed to be.

Coach Ryan Burke: That’s what I’m hoping more than anything is being taught in our youth Rugby and as they’re getting through high school, it’s just-not old dirty punches, none of the dirty extra stuff. Just play Rugby, come out and even when you are pissed off with a guy, don’t tackle the hell out of him but do it legally and you know, do it the way the game was meant, you know, for-to retaliate is just to play harder. Let it feed you and drive you and motivate you to play harder but not dirtier or nothing-you know, the year that we won that championship, it was crazy. The man on-amazing things that team had learned as a team. We’ve got from losing every game and winning every game. We lost one game. It was because we start picking on each other after they scored once on us and they’re really good team. “Man they’re beating us. They’re beating them in the playoffs.” It was like Cinderella story. But, what happen was before the season had begun, we went to pre-season tournament and we had a bunch of new kids on the team and I forgot that I had to explain to them the whole thing about no dirty play and stuff and like, this isn’t football and I wasn’t at the tournament but they ended up getting into, you know, like doing a lot of dirty stuff and battle of piles and punching and same was happening to them and went on against them all- a Caucasian team that’s really well off to do. The Caucasian team said, hey we’re going to-we’re not going to play you. We’re not going to play at the end of the season and you guys, we think what you’re doing-we think you’re teaching your kids to do these things. And this just was like, “No way have I spent five years to get at this point and have to shut my program down because that’s not what we’re going to do.” The amazing thing was, you know, I told him, “Hey, that’s not what happened. We’re going to go back.” The amazing thing is their president said, “Hey, why don’t we do a practice together.” And I was like, “What an amazing idea.”

RugbyNation.com: Wow.

Coach Ryan Burke: Before we went over right, I got all them on whites, they got all whites. They got a couple-a couple nonwhite kids, right? We get over there. Before we went over there, I talked to the kid. who got a red card on the game. He was our captain and I said we got to go over there. This is for the program. This is for everything we built thus far. We have to go over there. We have to apologize. We have to be, you know, we have to be well-behaved. Let’s go out there and have fun. Let’s compete. Let’s do what -and the kid told me, “You know what coach? I don’t-I’m going to go and say sorry for the program, but I’m not going to mean it and next time we play them, I’m going to kick the shit out of them and we’re going to”-you know, and he meant physically Rugby match, not the other stuff. And he said, “You know, but I’m only doing this because.” And I go, “Why do you-why are you so upset? What is it?” And he goes, “They looked down on us. On us coach.” And I go, you know, sometimes, you think you know backs, but you just-you just think that. And I know white people look at you and have a problem about it. You know, I go, “Look at me”. You know, and we went over there. We start playing touch. We get there early, play touch. Every white kid that came on the field- we just start running and then playing.

Not even six minutes after that started, kids were high-fiving, slapping each other on the back, like color had disappeared from the field, it was literally a Disney movie and I was just-I was so excited to see it that kids both teams, practices hard as I’ve ever seen high school kids practice because they were competing. But the-right before we had start a practice after we did some touch and stuff, my captain had come in who had never admitted that they play dirty, never admitted to me that they did that. And he said, you know, I just want to start by you know, apologizing for what we did. I apologize from my red card. I apologize to you guys back at the field but I want to do it again. We played a dirty game against you and I want you to know that it’ll never happen again. And I just want to thank you guys for accepting our apology and having us out and practice with you guys. And the other guy, the other Caucasian kid goes, “Hey man, what is, is it happened, we’re moving on. But really, we know we’re going to play a really hard game when we played each other because that’s how we played against each other” and it was just like, what it-like I felt like these kids have grown into adults immediately and I will-

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: It was such a special day and those kids had learned, I told the kids after that. I said, if you throw a punch, I don’t care if it’s retaliation. If any of us get a red card for something stupid like that, that’s on purpose, we’re forfeit the next two games. And out goal out here was to win championship. And if wasn’t a goal-it was a goal set by the team, on their own without talking to coaches, this is what we’re going to do. And we had the commissioner of the league, watching our games. They had coaches watching games. They called the other coaches to find out how our sportsmanship was in order to make decision to play us last game of season. And every coach after every game was like, “I am blown away by your sportsmanship.” I had a kid; my captain had bite marks on his hands. It was like coach they’re biting me. And I said, well thank you for not punching them. Tell the ref, right away.

RugbyNation.com: Okay.

Coach Ryan Burke: I was always-just always tell the ref right? [laughter] And so, I had kids like, “My skin was like- they’re getting me at the bottom of the pile. What I do” -tell your captain to tell the ref. like, don’t retaliate and they never did and we beat De La Salle has an amazing football program out here, like slaughtered everybody and I hear all the time. And we beat their Rugby team 77 to nothing and my kids were slapping the kids on the back, saying, “Keep your heads up. You’re a good Rugby team.” And I was like, I had-I thought that they could only reiterate what I said.

RugbyNation.com: Wow.

Coach Ryan Burke: And that was-something as like that and for them to get sportsmanship that year, we were known and we took pride of being the best sportsmanship team on the pitch at all times. And it was incredible and to share that with those kids. And the two kids that passed away, we’re a big part of that. And you know, it was such a, you know, honor at their funeral just to be speak and-to speak about that team, to speak about how they were champions and like how awesome they were as a part of that team, you know. And it was just-it was extremely special something I’ll never forget and I only hope that it happens more often so that it gets the-I truly, that year when we’re about to last week of practice, kids stop showing to practice on time and it was like-like senioritis. And I was like, “Man, these kids are going to lose” and there not going to have anything, you know, great to remember about Oakland. And then they went out and did it and it was just, you know, spectacular. We ended up playing another Oakland team. Bishop O’Dowd, a catholic school. And they had gotten so much better over the seasons they were first year and they made it to the championships. And so, they had very good program and we-it was just-it was amazing to see these kids and see some of my kids crying after the game like it was so emotional about winning, you know, and how everything came together that season. That was like, what are those for. I mean that’s why you want to win the national championships.

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: This is something for the medal, you know.

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: But it was-it was definitely, definitely special and it was great to-we got to share that with kids that are so, you know, I didn’t know what inner city meant. I didn’t know. I always thought that people should be able to help themselves. And you know, in doing this I realized so many different things about the cycle of people not having to help to be able to know how to help their children or-

RugbyNation.com: Yes.

Coach Ryan Burke: Or, I mean, you know, or being at work, three different jobs so they can’t be there to parent their child. You know, or you know, dads are gone or dads are shot or all sorts of crazy things and this really open my eyes and you know, I feel very bless to be in the position I am and to work with these kids everyday. And I wish that I even-I wish I could do this for a living. I wish things didn’t cost money, you know, for free, you know, but I’d do it for free but I mean like I wish I didn’t have to work and I could spent all my time focusing on this because-

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: The success that we have with all these kids, you know, they just like, they reenergize me and they-it’s an adrenalin or it’s a drug. It’s a drug to see these kids succeed, you know, and it’s something that I absolutely love and I’m passionate about and glad that I got to play apart because I feel like we’re all here to do something more than just worry about ourselves in our own little thing. And you know, to be able to actually give and to see these kids give to other people, like you know, the effects we make on these kids can be exponential and to see that happen is it’s worth more than any amount of money you could ever pay me. Or, you know, and all the troubles that come with money, so.

RugbyNation.com: Yeah, and you know, and-you know, I’m honored to have met you and I wish there was 10,000 more of you. But I think that you know-

Coach Ryan Burke: Yeah, me too. [laughter]

RugbyNation.com: You know, honestly I-you know, what you’re doing for the sport is great and you would be remembered for a long time. And I really look forward to getting, you know, getting your input and help and just you know, with RugbyNation.com and that helping up to grow and I think that putting. You know, putting your ideas together here as we’ve discussed them right now and trying to implement them in the goal of growing the sports of Rugby in the US. And I think it’s doable. I think right now is the time.

Coach Ryan Burke: Yeah, and I’ll tell you, I can’t imagine helping but I’ve always been open to helping anybody out with whoever starting a program what worked for us, what didn’t, to give any kind of input that’s going to-I literally want to give this game to as many people as possible. I think-whether it’s in United States or another country, it is an honor to be able to participate in the sport and to experience the amazing and unforgettable experience as I have had because of Rugby and Rugby alone. I mean, besides, you know, getting married and having kids, my best times in my life had been on a Rugby pitch, you know, and many times hanging with my brothers afterwards and all that, to give these to kids and specially these kids that don’t feel-you know, that would rather, they think they got to go a game because they don’t really have a family. It’s like; we’re a gang in a different way. You know, a gang-

RugbyNation.com: Right.

Coach Ryan Burke: A gang with positivity, you know, and I think that anything I can do to assist somebody else with either collaboration or advice or input or question or anything, I’m so open to it whether it’s you to help, you know, grow the sport in the country. Whether it’s, you know, anybody else who’s really, you know, a one or two people program trying to get, you know, they’re so overwhelmed and how is it that we do what we do or how do we make it workout. Anything I can do to assist others and in making a difference way more of our youth through Rugby. I’m all about it. So, you can feel free to share that or post that to my email address at anytime. Because I like being able to provide people with input that’s going to help their program grow as well.

RugbyNation.com: Thank you. Same here and I honestly want a lot more youth to get involve and everything. You know, one of things that I’d love for you to add to the website as if you wouldn’t mind putting together kind of like, those “unwritten” rules of Rugby, that gentlemanly rules. I think that kind of having those is like core value and statutes for what Rugby is and what the heart of Rugby is. I think nobody better than you would be able to actually put those together and all-

Coach Ryan Burke: We know there’s a-

RugbyNation.com: -all attribute-attribute you to being the one who wrote these rules and put them on the website.

Coach Ryan Burke: You know, the-I got to get your email address because there is a thing down below my signature that’s like the five principles of Rugby.

RugbyNation.com: Yeah.

Coach Ryan Burke: And the amazing things that they come from it. And I got it from somewhere. I saw it on Facebook or something that was like, man, like if this-if I put that in everything I have and people see it to go, what’s Rugby and they see that, and they go, “Oh man, that’s something honorable.” You know, and I’ll send you an email so you can even see that but that’s something-I don’t remember who wrote or whatnot, but it’s definitely something in and you know, kind of what you’re talking about right there with the rules, but just really the culture of Rugby.

RugbyNation.com: Yes. That’s great.