Message from the Chairman of the Youth Committee

We are gearing up for the 2022 youth rugby programs. Although we had no programs in 2020 and 2021, due to Covid, we made our Harlequin presence known in the communities that we served for 24 years. Significant donations were made to the neighborhood food banks and gift giving of toys and sporting equipment at the holidays brightened many lives, including our lives. Please consider helping as a volunteer at one of the community sites. We will provide all necessary training and promise you a joyful experience and heartfelt pride as part of the Harlequin family.

 – Mark Connolly

Youth and Middle School Rugby

We believe in promoting the sport of rugby through education and youth mentoring. Our organization is affiliated with a network of nationally-certified rugby coaches and players to provide community rugby programs to disadvantaged youth and teen groups throughout Allegheny County. Our goal is to instill the values of self-confidence, leadership and integrity through our program. 

Community Charities

The Pittsburgh Harlequins Rugby Football Association (PHRFA) was founded in 1995 as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit youth mentoring organization. The PHRFA uses a volunteer network of nationally certified rugby coaches and players to provide community rugby programs to disadvantaged youth and teen groups throughout Allegheny County, with the goal of instilling the values that team athletics can provide, including self-confidence, leadership, and integrity. 

The Association has undertaken its over 20 years of Youth Mentoring Programs in the Pittsburgh Area. The Program includes 4 sites, 28 neighborhoods, 1500 volunteer hours, and over 200 youth from predominantly at-risk communities. 

Initial funding was provided by generous donations from the R. K. Mellon, Grable, and McCune Foundations. The Association is in its 17th year of program success. The mentoring programs are staffed entirely by volunteers from the Pittsburgh Harlequins Rugby club including active and retired players. Each of four program sites strive to maintain a 1:7 ratio of mentors to children and average approximately 25-30 participants per year. 

Coach-Mentors receive training from the Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania; and safety, CPR and first aid training from staff at Magee Hospital in Pittsburgh. Volunteers are expected to contribute a minimum of 50 hours per year, though many/most far exceed that number. 

Formal programs run 10 weeks in March, April, May. Program preparation and mentor training continues 12 months a year. 

A Closer Look

Each program site introduces and teaches a non-contact version of rugby (similar to flag football). Unlike many traditionally American sports where an emphasis is put on individual achievement, rugby requires the participation and cooperation of everyone on the field to achieve success. In this sense, many of the youth also become mentors as they encourage newer participants. 

In order to meet the youth in their element, the programs meet predominantly in their inner-city neighborhoods. 

Starting on Tuesdays and Thursdays in April, the programs run for 10 weeks – Tuesdays in each programs’ neighborhood, and on Thursdays two of the teams travel to another neighborhood for games, dinner, and socializing. 

Throughout the year all four program sites visit Founders Field. There, the youth are given the opportunity to compete in front of family, friends and many from the Harlequin’s supporters and active players on the same fields that host multiple National Championship events every year.

Many studies show a correlation between participating in team sports and a lower criminal and teen pregnancy rates, as well as better success in school. In addition, there are several rationales for the benefits of the Harlequins Programs, including:

  • Keeps young people busy and out of trouble
  • Increases feeling of connectedness
  • Develops athletic abilities
  • Meets a need that youth have for excitement
  • Develops decision-making skills
  • Increases self-esteem
  • Makes young people feel empowered
  • Develops problem-solving skills
  • Develops cognitive competencies
  • Meets a need that youth have for risk-taking
  • Fosters teamwork
  • Provides positive role-models and mentors

The Harlequins youth programs have focused on 4 areas with high concentrations of at-risk youth. The map below shows the Pittsburgh region representing youth in poverty  the darker the shade of red, the higher the concentration of youth in poverty. The squares represent different crimes committed by youth. (note: Braddock criminal activity is not represented in City of Pittsburgh data). 

The Association has formed partnerships with many organizations in support of its Youth Programs, seeking to build on and complement existing programs. The Harlequins always welcome additional volunteer mentors, sponsors, and community partners. Contact us for more information.