Rockaway Youth Rugby Coaches Honored
Rugby is the fastest growing sport in college and Olympic competition. Young men are being introduced to a sport that requires years of development to get to a competitive stage. Starting with the basics, these young men learn how to compete, test physical endurance, the value of sportsmanship, and, are eventually rewarded with everlasting friendships. "The Rugby bond is like no other,” exclaimed Rockaway Youth Rugby President Bob Johnson. “It's the sport we love to play and live.”
Rockaway Rugby is proud to celebrate our youth rugby coaches who have dedicated their time and energy to teaching and coaching the young men of the Rockaway Youth Program and beyond. This Saturday, Feb. 18, the Queens County Parade Committee has bestowed the honor of Deputy Grand Marshal to two of our coaches, Andrew Israel and Robert Palmer.
Andrew Israel, a devout Irish Catholic, like many Brooklyn natives, spent his childhood summers in Breezy Point. After graduating from Marist College, he decided to make Rockaway his home. A lifelong athlete, he represented Xavier High School on their 1985 National Championship Rugby Team. During his time at Marist College, he was captain of both the football team and the Marist Rugby Club, which he helped to establish. His love for the game of rugby continued throughout his life, playing for both OMEX RFC and his beloved Rockaway Fishheads RFC. It was his work in developing a rugby program for the community's youth that was his passion. It gave him tremendous strength and hope as he bravely battled cancer. Andrew was a dedicated math teacher in the NYC Public School System at I.S. 77 in Ridgewood, Queens where he was an inspiration to many of his students. Andrew lost his battle to cancer on Aug. 8, 2016. His passion for rugby lives on in the Rockaway Rugby Youth Program that continues to introduce young men to the sport. Accepting the posthumous honor is his wife, Teresa and his three children Mary, Julia and Andrew who are proud to call Rockaway Park their home. His parents, Bob and Jeanette both reside in Breezy Point.
Rob Palmer attended Burke Catholic High School in Goshen, N.Y., where he played ice hockey. He began his college studies at Long Island University where, as a freshman, he played hockey before transferring to SUNY Cortland where he found his love for rugby. He graduated from Cortland State University with a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, and received his master’s in Physical Education at Manhattanville College. Rob moved to Rockaway when he accepted a staff position with the DOE teaching physical education at Canarsie HS in Brooklyn.
Once Rob moved to Rockaway, he started playing rugby for the Fisheads. He also continued to play hockey for a men's club at the Aviator facility. He founded a rugby program at Canarsie HS and led the team to two PSAL championships. He now also coaches JV Football at Canarsie. Since his start with the Fisheads he gravitated towards teaching youth rugby and coaching young men while developing physically and mentally with the sport of rugby.
"It's not what sports you have played throughout your life, it's the sport you live for ... and if you're lucky enough to play on a rugby pitch, you're a better man or woman for it" said Rockaway Youth Rugby Captain TJ Mahoney.