Great news are coming from the Canadian side of the NAL border as four Canadian teams are about to participate on the 2nd edition of the North American UW Rugby Tournament this upcoming August in Toronto.
The regulars have been so far Club CAMO (Montreal, QC) and Toronto UWR (Toronto, ON) together with Club Liberation (Branford, ON) but this August a third club team from the province of Ontario will make their debut as the Timmins Underwater Rugby team, from the City of Timmins, Ontario.
uwrugby.org contacted their organizer Alex Gagnon for a short interview to introduce Timmins UWS to the rest of US and Canadian clubs.
UWRUGBY.ORG: It was a great surprise to find that a new canadian team has joined the uw rugby world! How did Timmins UWS started?
Alex Gagnon: When you initially contacted me about this, I didn’t realize there were only 3 other teams that currently still exist across all of Canada. It doesn’t surprise me though as I understand now the obstacles that face a new club. Timmins isn’t a big City compared to the other UWR club locations and Underwater Sports usually attract only a small demographic due to it’s perception of intensity. I was lucky to have formed a partnership with my City and local pool to accommodate my initiatives, be flexible with my needs and promote my efforts. How do you get people to pay about $15 (cover pool rental) to try something they don’t know they’ll like or even stay around for? This is why it didn’t surprise me how not many clubs survived. You need to establish a strong interest of participants that can assure numbers at the pool sessions but as a start up how’s this possible? I was able to share the Friday night public swims with the City by closing off a small section of the pool and taking drop-ins who were curious of what we were doing. It was a win-win, they only charged the normal public swim and I brought in regulars who kept coming for the sport. This was a great system….except I received drop-in newcomers in the dozens at times, which is great but also many didn’t expect to join nor had gear for it. Which is the other reason I see Clubs’ tough lifespan. I did get some donations/support from the Toronto/Guelph Underwater Rugby & Hockey clubs and thank them very much but even with that I had to invest in gear for UWH & UWR for numbers that I couldn’t predict. I bring in 3 full bins of gear to the pool to supply over 20 participants if need be and bring them back home every evening to clean and sanitize each piece for health & maintenance reasons. I once had 133 pieces of gear to clean right after a drop-in evening!
UWRUGBY.ORG: Who is the organizer?
A.G. My name is Alexandre Gagnon and I can proudly say I have brought a surviving Underwater Sports Club to Timmins. Underwater Hockey started October 2017 and drop-in sessions every Friday night and Underwater Rugby started in March 2018 running drop -in sessions only Monday Evenings for the first few months and now 2 sessions a week (Wednesdays too).
UWRUGBY.ORG: Where is Timmins located?
A.G. Timmins is a mining community in Northeastern Ontario, approximately 8 hours from Toronto and has a population of 41 788 residents. Going the other direction it is about 7 hours from the Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan border.
UWRUGBY.ORG: How many days a week do you practice UWR?
A.G. Currently we practice Underwater Rugby twice a week; Monday and Wednesday evenings 8:15 to 9:30 PM, to accommodate the various schedules of our regulars as well as to have more time to build endurance, skill, welcome more newcomers and simply add more joy to our week.
UWRUGBY.ORG: Having the real UWR goals (baskets) is a big milestone for clubs. Does Timmins have them yet?
A.G. I did not invest in the grand amount for nets as a start up but MacGyvered hours to make the closest replica that I could within my means that could also withstand chlorine water submersion vs. stainless steel. I attached photos of our plastic & foam, mining belt, tywrapped UWR goals. They are a bit wider than regulation nets but about the same height. Maybe the regulation nets will be easier to goaltend on for us when it comes to tournaments as it is a smaller hole to cover!
UWRUGBY.ORG: US and Canadian clubs started a collaboration to develop the sport in both sides of the border through the North American League (NAL) Do you see your team going to tournaments in the US soon?
A.G. I definitely could see this possibility become a reality. We are doing our first tournament this August in Toronto where US teams are travelling to us and if that experience is enjoyed by my members I could see them eager for future tournaments against the same and new teams. I know fees are a challenge when it comes to tournaments with each members personal financial situations. I never wanted that to impede on someone’s potential to experience an Underwater Sports improvement opportunity. This is why I can see a US tournament (further, more costly) easier to swallow as I have set up fundraising efforts for our club through a business I own to try and cover most of the costs (attached image).
UWRUGBY.ORG: I guess your background is UWH. What did you liked about UWR that made you start the UWR part?
A.G. I did start with hockey as it was easier to get people to try out for the first time. A good chunk of my Underwater Rugby regulars come from being UWH regulars who were very competitive and intrigued from the sounds of UWR. I always planned on adding the sport but knew I had to build that committed group first as it is perceived as an intimidating activity. Now others seeing us scrimmaging during Adult Swims and people who try UWR sharing word of mouth increase our numbers.
UWRUGBY.ORG: What are the dimensions and characteristics of your pool?
A.G.3.81 m deep, 14.5 m across
UWRUGBY.ORG: Do you want to send a message for the US and Canadian uwr teams?
We are fairly new club but we can still make the other teams work. We are eager to learn from the experienced as well as perhaps bring new challenges to the Underwater play seen at previous tournaments.
For any other Canadian individuals looking to create an Underwater Rugby team, DO IT! The work is endless and takes much of you, you may invest more time and money than you should….but it is so worth it.
UWRUGBY.ORG: Please feel free to add any other info, fun facts, etc
Underwater Sports Change Lives! We have seen amazing transitions in swim ability from players simply attempting to get to depths, players with deep end fears of drowning overcome the phobia, we have had smokers quit their addiction to improve lung capacity and even had someone quit and move out of an employment that took over almost every minute of his weeks to be able to make practices and he discovered a better workplace-life-family balance.
Also our 2 youngest players are a 15 year old girl and a 16 year old boy. Don’t be fooled by their age, they are tough and very dangerous! haha.
Timmins UWR will be one of the possible participants in Toronto
1. Toronto UWR (Can)
2. CAMO Rugby sousmarin (Can)
3. Club Liberation (Can)
4. Timmins UWS (Can)
5. Boston Narwhals (USA)
6. NJ Hammerheads (USA)
7. NUWR (USA)
8. Orphans team (US-Can)
9. USA Ladies Team (USA)