Rockaway Youth Rugby Coaches Honored

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Rugby is the fastest growing sport in college and Olympic competitions. 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 rewarded with everlasting friendships.  "The Rugby bond is like no other, it's the sport we love to play and live," exclaimed Rockaway Rugby President, Bob Johnson.

Rockaway Rugby is proud to celebrate our youth rugby coaches who have dedicated their time and energy to coaching the young men of the Rockaway Youth Program and beyond. This Saturday, the Queens County Parade Committee has bestowed the honor of Deputy Grand Marshal to two coaches, Andrew Israel and Robert Palmer.

Andrew Israel, a devoted Irish Catholic and Brooklyn native, spent his childhood summers in Breezy Point. After graduating from Marist College, he made 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 rugby continued throughout his life, playing for both OMEX RFC and his beloved Rockaway Fishhead's RFC. Developing a rugby program for the community's youth was his passion. It gave him tremendous strength and hope as he bravely battled cancer. Israel was a dedicated math teacher at IS 77 in Ridgewood, Queens,  where he was an inspiration to many of his students.  Israel lost his battle to cancer on August 8, 2016. His passion for rugby lives on in the Rockaway Rugby Youth Program that continues to introduce young men to the sport. Accepting this posthumous honor are his wife, Teresa and his three children Mary, Julia and Andrew, of Rockaway Park. His parents, Bob and Jeanette, both reside in Breezy Point.

Rob Palmer attended Burke Catholic High School in Goshen, NY, where he played ice hockey. He began his college studies at Long Island University where he played hockey for his freshman year 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 Masters in Physical Education at Manhattanville College. Palmer moved to Rockaway when he accepted a staff position with the NYC - DOE teaching physical education at Canarsie HS in Brooklyn.  

Palmer played rugby for the Fisheads and continued to play hockey for a men's club at Aviator. 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 them 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," proclaimed Rockaway Rugby Captain TJ Mahoney.

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