“We would love to have you.”
Nine years after its formation, Fernie’s Elk Valley RFC is a Rugby Club that welcomes everyone – regardless of ability or Rugby experience.
Founded in 2013 in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the Club has grown from strength to strength and features Senior Men’s and Women’s teams, as well as a thriving Rookie Rugby program.
However, building a Club culture of inclusivity, fun, and togetherness has been the most important – and valued – thing.
“From day one, culture has been very important,” said Peter Dudman, former President, Vice-President, Captain, Player and now Coach at the Club.
“No person is an island. We all need people in our lives. We all need friends and family, we need people to look after us. And we need to look after those people as well. It is a culture that is very, very important to the values of the Club.”
MORE THAN A CLUB: ELK VALLEY IS A FAMILY
Instilling those family values has been a constant in the Club’s young history. Based in the city of Fernie in the East Kootenays, the Club welcomes Members from all different backgrounds and walks of life.
“Fernie is a very transitional town with the ski industry here,” said Dudman. “Lots of people don’t have families here. It is one thing that we have tried the hardest: we are there for you. We are a team, and we are a family.”
“We’re about team bonding”
For Elk Valley RFC, the emphasis is not on winning every weekend. It’s about being there for each other when it matters most.
“We’re not one of those Clubs where players turn up on a Saturday and expect to play,” added Dudman. “That’s not what we’re about – we’re about the morale, the team bonding. We had a local guy come and play for us last year. He had never played Rugby before, and wanted to get involved. He had played hockey his entire life. But once he saw what the culture was like in our sport, what it meant to be part of a Rugby team – his mind was blown.”
“If you’re not going to look after the people who are new and want to learn the game and only cater for that win on a Saturday, it’s a recipe for disaster. It’s irrelevant because everything you are trying to build goes out the window.”
BUILDING FROM THE BEGINNING
Building starts at the beginning. Four years ago, Elk Valley RFC started a Rookie Rugby program that had 20 children attend.
But thanks to the hard work from President Min Merritt and Rookie Rugby coaches James, Jeff, Army, Brendan, Liz, Dani, Becca, Jessie, Min, Viny, Tony, John, and Jocelyn, as well as working closely with local schools, the Club has seen 90 kids aged 3-12 sign up for the program in 2022. The program is run at cost – the Club doesn’t make money from it – and the children get a t-shirt.
“The amount of work our Rookie Rugby coaches have put into the Program is exceptional,” said Dudman. “There was a huge gap, especially here in the valley, where Rugby wasn’t played in schools at all. If you don’t start looking for new, younger Members and build the Club from the bottom up, in a couple of years we would be seriously struggling.”
“It was awesome to see his smile afterwards!”
The program is more than just introducing children to Rugby. It is more than learning new skills and having fun. It is about showing that there is a place for everyone in Rugby, no matter their size or ability.
“One of the boys who came to Rookie Rugby has always been hesitant about playing because he is small. He was worried about getting hurt,” Dudman said.
“Min [Merritt, Elk Valley RFC president] convinced him to come and watch the Senior Men’s team play. Our captain, Sorla, is a half back and weighs about 100-lbs wet. He witnessed that you don’t have to be a big, bruising 250-lb forward to make an impact in a game. You can be that small, nimble, skilful player and make a huge difference. It was awesome to see his smile afterwards.”
RUGBY’S BRIGHT FUTURE IN FERNIE
Rugby hits differently in BC’s northern and interior regions. With inclement weather limiting the amount of playing time for Clubs, seasons take place between Spring and Summer and finish with the prestigious Saratoga Cup – a real festival weekend of Rugby.
It isn’t just about playing games: Clubs that contest BC’s Northern and Interior leagues are famous for their incredible hospitality and hosting skills. For many, it is about spending time with like-minded people and enjoying being together off the pitch, as well as the battles on it!
“It’s an excellent mindset to have, isn’t it? We’ll beat you on the field and then we’ll out host you after!” joked Dudman. “In the nine years that we have been a Club, a team from the Kootenays has won the Saratoga Cup four times. Both Elk Valley and Cranbrook have also lost two other finals. That’s incredible: for the forgotten corner of BC, we’re putting out some great Rugby.”
With a focus of securing more matches for the Senior Women’s team, as well as continuing to grow youth Rugby programs through initiatives such as Girls Can Rugby, Elk Valley RFC is ensuring the future of Rugby in Fernie – and British Columbia – remains bright.
Elk Valley RFC trains at Prentice Park in Fernie every Tuesday and Thursday evening at 6:30pm-8:00/8:30pm. Everyone is welcome – the best way to get in touch is via the Club’s Facebook Page here.