Lifestyle & Human Interest

Two Men Dramatically Impact the Lives of Youth by Getting Them off the Streets After School


An after-school rugby club is drastically impacting the lives of middle and high school students in inner-city Memphis, Tennessee and, in turn, is also impacting the community. The story of how this organization began and the growth they’ve seen in the past six years is incredibly inspiring.

In 2012, founders Shane Young and Devin O’Brien met while training for Teach For America, a non-profit that places qualified teachers in low-income communities to help elevate the quality of education in those areas.

Even though Young and O’Brien had never met before Teach For America, the two prospective teachers bonded over their past experiences playing rugby and their passion to help young students succeed.

After they were both placed in inner-city Memphis schools, they noticed the severe lack of sports outlets for their students.

Knowing first-hand the potential impact that rugby could have on their students, they decided to form the first boys team — but they had no idea just how much the program would grow.

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“It had a big impact in and out of the classroom, just being this non-traditional sport,” Young told Liftable, a section of The Western Journal. “We fell backwards really into something that kids thrived in and we knew we loved rugby and we didn’t really know exactly how it would catch on in these urban areas.”

But catch on it did.

Within the first season they saw a significant change in the students’ grades, attendance, attitude, and overall academic dedication.

The program also allowed students to interact with fellow students from other areas of the city that they `may not have otherwise been able to interact with.

Since then the program has grown to invest in over 164 students, both girls and boys, on 6 different competitive teams.

What’s truly amazing about Memphis Inner City Rugby is that they don’t focus solely on the athletic performance of their students — they also have programs in place to foster growth academically and emotionally.

Every student-athlete involved with MICR is required to attend a weekly study hall that gives them intentional time to study for tests, complete homework, and prepare for college. MICR also has yoga instructors leading their students in weekly sessions to help with emotional regulation and improve flexibility.

According to an infographic posted at the beginning of the year, 90% of students reported feeling improvement in their academic dedication, thanks to the programs in place with MICR.

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For high school junior Erica, MICR has provided a “sisterhood” that she would not have otherwise been a part of, as well as the outlet for her anger.

High school senior Kamyia said that the organization has shown her a level of support she had never experienced before. “I never thought that someone would care about me as much and want to see me succeed and that is their main goal: to see their student-athletes succeed,” she told Liftable.

But MICR doesn’t stop investing in students after they graduate high school.

Not only does MICR help connect students with top universities around the country, but they also employ interested student leaders who decide to pursue higher education close to Memphis to come back as alumni coaches for younger girls.

Colby McCoy, a student at Southwest Community College and an alumni coach for MICR, told Liftable that MICR has continued to support her academic and financial well-being in college. She is paid to help younger student athletes grow and flourish in the same program that impacted her while she was in high school.

Memphis Inner City Rugby is impacting the surrounding community by investing in individual girls and boys within it.

It is absolutely incredible to see how much this organization has grown within the past seven years and it is only continuing to do so.

To find out more about Memphis Inner City Rugby, check out their website or follow their Facebook page for updates.

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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