Players grow from Pa’Kit rugby tournament

Ian Butters’ happiness goes beyond numbers.

Kaitlin Kennedy of the Pen High Lakers girls rugby squad runs the ball upfield against Strathcona Lords defenders Rebecca Roth (left) and Amanda Rivard (right) during action in the recent Pa’kit Rugby tournament at McNicoll Park.

Kaitlin Kennedy of the Pen High Lakers girls rugby squad runs the ball upfield against Strathcona Lords defenders Rebecca Roth (left) and Amanda Rivard (right) during action in the recent Pa’kit Rugby tournament at McNicoll Park.

Ian Butters’ happiness goes beyond numbers.

The Pen High Lakers girls rugby team coach was happy his team went 2-2 during the 2011 Pa’kit tournament, which this year was a girls-only affair.

“The fact that they were able to play and watch other teams play, they were really able to put together an understanding for themselves of what they were doing,” said Butters.

One of the reasons Pa’kit is organized is to give local teams a chance to see a lot of action.

“It’s a short, intense game the way we structure it,” he said. “We can go away and discuss what they did right away or the next day and get to play again.”

The tournament began on Thursday with teams playing 25-minute halves, which was reduced to 17 minutes on Friday as teams played twice with final games on Saturday morning. What stood out to Butters was that his players showed a willingness to learn.

“I really found with girls is that they are very, very coachable,” he said. “They were learning like crazy.”

The Lakers opened with a 17-0 loss to eventual champions Strathcona Lords from Edmonton, then lost to the North Surrey Spartans 7-5. Things turned around with a 32-0 win over Prince George and 17-5 against the L.V. Rogers Bombers.

Pa’kit’s other purpose is to provide an opportunity for interior teams to get onto the field early and develop.

Lords coach Mark Cannon wanted to get his team playing in a tournament facing other B.C. squads before they get their season started and vying for a city championship. It was important to him because he knows how well-coached teams are. Competing for the first time on grass, Cannon was a little surprised his team won the tournament after they defeated the Kelowna Owls 17-12.

“I wasn’t sure how we’d fare,” said Cannon. “I wanted them to gain experience. I knew there would be good teams there. Penticton is awesome to be in. For my team to progress and to win championships, we must play B.C. teams.”

Cannon was pleased with how Butters organized Pa’kit and felt having the mini games was a positive bonding experience for the players as was the social on Friday night.

“It’s really cool,” he said. “Those things are missing sometimes in sports. The girls were a bit disappointed there were no boys. That makes life easy for coaches.”