The Lions Youth Rugby program began in May 2018 after Chicago Lions hired a Director of Youth Rugby, Andy Rose. Andy came from Rugby Illinois, the state’s youth organization, and has made inroads in the inner city.

The creation of a Youth Rugby program allowed Chicago Lions to run the Chicago Hope Rugby team, as well as connect with middle schools in the area. This program gave many youth in this at-risk area the opportunity to spend their time playing rugby. To date, programs exist and are operating in two area middle schools.

Chicago Lions coaches assist Wapiti Rugby, a partner club. In 2018, the Wapiti HS team was merged with Hope. Wapiti Rugby will be merged into the Chicago Lions Youth Rugby Program in its entirety beginning in July 2019 and will add 150 participants to the program.

There are 29 high schools and 54 middle schools in the immediate area, making 20,544 deserving students eligible for this program. These schools reside within 2 miles of the Chicago Lions program location. In our first school year Chicago Lions has been running programs in 2 schools with 4 schools to start programming in 2019, pending CPS vendor licensing, bringing the total number of youth participants to 120.

With additional mentors and funding, Chicago Lions believes it will continue its impact and growth, as well as have a positive influence on all eligible students. Additionally, we will gain a representative sample size for data collection and impact evaluation.

Community Rugby

Lions Community Rugby is a free, after-school, rugby program run by the Lions in three Chicago middle schools, all located in under-resourced communities, serving substantially minority populations who fall below federal poverty line.

The Community Rugby program utilizes a proven Social and Emotional Learning curriculum developed by Play Rugby USA. The program uses rugby to improve core skills such as Goal
Orientation, Self Management, and Social Capital.

Community Rugby students are now being “pulled through” to participate in Lions Youth Rugby, allowing their rugby and educational journey to continue and progress.

Rookie Rugby & Middle School Rugby

The Lions offer a comprehensive youth rugby program for boys and girls from age 4 through high school. Participants come from across Chicago. Special emphasis is placed on attracting kids from the Near West Side neighborhoods around the Lions Complex. Scholarships for youth programs are readily available to ensure cost is not a barrier to entry.

  • Rookie Rugby: Pre-K to 4th Grade / Non-contact Rugby
  • Middle School Rugby
    • Middle School Juniors: 5-6th Grade / Contact Rugby
    • Middle School Seniors: 7-8th Grade / Contact Rugby

High School Rugby

The Lions field competitive High School teams for both girls and boys. The HS teams are coached by current or former Lions Senior players who are qualified USA Rugby Level 200 coaches as well as trained in SEL coaching approaches. The bulk of the Lions HS players are drawn from communities and schools on Chicago’s Near West Side.

  • High School Girls 9-12th Grade / Contact Rugby
  • High School Boys 9-12th Grade / Contact Rugby

After-School Outreach

An after school program that will serve as an informational introduction to rugby.

  • Taster - an introductory 2 hour taste of rugby
  • Camp - a one hour one day session for 4 weeks to introduce rugby basics
  • League - Two times a week, 1.5 hour sessions, 4-6 week program. Introduction to more complex rugby tactics and weekly matches leading to a league winner
  • Exit – Direct students to join their local rugby organization

Strategic Programming

Noble Charter Schools

According to the US Department of Education: “[Noble] has an exceptional track record of helping low income and minority students attain significantly higher achievement and graduation rates. Further replication will benefit additional students and strengthen the Chicago Public Schools system.”

  • Primary Lions for Hope Complex User
  • NNCS won 2015 Broad Prize, national award for top US charter school network
  • 11,000+ students, 17 college prep campuses in Chicago, students 98% minority, 89% low-income, 90%+ graduates matriculated into college in 2015
  • Noble Athletic Conference aims to create positive impact through athletics, including a highly competitive boys-and-girls rugby program

Big Brothers Big Sisters

This organization aims to partner with role models, volunteers, and others in the community in order to bring children facing adversity higher aspirations, avoidance of risky behavior, and educational success.

The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is closely aligned with Chicago Lions’. Both are determined to make a safe space for the youth in this at-risk area. Chicago Lions believes this organization will use any requested facility space in the most influential way.

Ways to Support

This is a great opportunity to give back to the Chicago community!

  1. Spread the word about the campaign through your social channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)
  2. Connect us with individuals, corporations, or foundations that may be interested in this project
  3. Donate to the campaign at

Let's Work Together

If you’re interested in helping the CLCA and want to learn more, please get in touch. If you do not wish to donate online, you can mail a donation to:

Chicago Lions Charitable Association
PO Box 532

Northbrook, IL 60065

The Lions for Hope Sports Complex is located at 2637 West Polk Avenue, Chicago, IL 60612.

Jeff Simon
President, Chicago Lions Rugby

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