DENVER (KDVR) — A Denver man is entering a new sports venture to give a specific group of people the chance to play the game of rugby, who may have never had the opportunity to do so.
Paul Martin is asking for the community’s support in the launch of a new rugby league. It’s the first of its kind for Denver and offers those with intellectual disabilities the chance to play rugby in a unique way.
Rugby is an international sport that brings some of the toughest athletes to the turf, including Joshua Roberts and Mike Love-Pendleton. They’re the newest members of the Denver Rugby Movement, a mixed-ability rugby club, and both have disabilities.
“We love it!” Roberts exclaimed. “We love it!”
The Denver Rugby Movement is the brainchild of Martin, who’s been playing the sport since he was a teenager.
“I saw the love of rugby they had and also saw that there are no programs in the Denver or Colorado area that offered rugby to adults or any participants with intellectual developmental disabilities,” Martin explained.
Martin shared that he met Roberts and Love-Pendleton at a rugby tournament in Denver in 2021 and that’s where their relationship blossomed. They exchanged information and kept in touch over the past year, occasionally meeting up to play and learn rugby.
“I love rugby and watching it on TV and to come out here and watch it out here,” Roberts said.
Love-Pendleton shared the same sentiment. “I love it. Same thing, but I love watching it and learning more about it,” he said.
‘Mixed-ability is about inclusion’ in sport, founder says
Their taking to the sport got Martin thinking and researching. He told FOX31 there is no mixed-ability rugby team in Denver, so he started his own nonprofit in July and is getting it off the ground.
“The idea about mixed-ability is about inclusion and everyone playing the same sport,” Martin said.
Those with disabilities get on the turn with able-bodied players and get to work, participating and competing in the sport.
“I hope everybody who has our disability, or any disability, plays it and learns more about it,” Roberts said. “Try your best and have fun!”
Right now, the movement is looking for volunteers and players to join in on the fun. Martin said he does not want cost to be a barrier to any player, so he’s started a GoFundMe to pay for uniforms, equipment, cleats, balls and traveling costs. He’s asking for community support. If you’d like to donate, click here.
“There’s really no better feeling,” Martin said, “seeing someone who’s never been offered the opportunity to play rugby, play rugby and enjoy it!”
It’s a very aggressive sport, but they’re tough as nails already. During the practice FOX31 observed, the players and coaches kept going even though it started pouring rain and Love-Pendleton busted his lip. Asked if it hurt, he responded, “No, I want to get back out there!”