All in the rugby family


For Jocelyn de Leon and her family, the conversations at the dinner table are dominated by one topic: rugby.

De Leon’s husband, Josh, is an assistant coach for the Carmel Dads’ Club’s seventh- and eighth-grade girls tackle team. He also is an assistant coach on the Carmel High School club team. The de Leons have daughters on both teams.

The family became involved with the sport when they moved to Carmel roughly five years ago. Their middle child, Chloe, who plays on the high school club team, wanted to participate in a contact sport. She had been involved in martial arts, which led to a black belt in Taekwondo.

She eventually settled on rugby, and Josh jumped right in with her.

“He just wanted to try something new for our daughter,” de Leon said.

And it wasn’t just Chloe who was bit by the rugby bug. Their youngest, Leila, recently picked up the sport, too. Her seventh- and eighth-grade girls tackle team won the 2022 Rugby Indiana Girls State Championship last month.

Of the 14 girls on the team, more than half were new to the sport. For head coach Kelly Romano, it’s proof of how accommodating rugby can be for players of all backgrounds and skill levels.

“There’s no standard rugby player,” Romano said.

Romano is the head coach of the high school club team and the CDC seventh- and eighth-grade girls tackle team. It’s her sixth year serving as a head coach for CDC Youth rugby. She played the sport at Illinois State University, where she was part of a national championship team.

Romano loves the sport, but she says that her favorite part of coaching is getting to interact with kids and their families. She loves introducing young players to rugby and showing them that no matter their skill level, she has a place for them on her team.

Although she recently added another title trophy to her case, Romano said it’s the people, not the prizes, that make the Carmel rugby community so special.

“It’s a family,” Romano said.

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