MIHS grad looks to start high school rugby team on Mercer Island

It has been tried twice before. This time, though, Sina Yeganeh, thinks he has the right formula to make a rugby team on Mercer Island work.

The Mercer Island High School graduate and more recent grad of Whitman University in Walla Walla, Wash., played rugby for four years in college and quickly found that he had discovered a passion. It only made sense to him to give others the opportunity to explore that same passion.

While his effort is only weeks old, already Yeganeh has gotten a decent amount of interest from his target audience: high school boys who could one day be on a Mercer Island team.

“I think it’s great. I didn’t expect as much support as I’ve seen,” he said. Rugby in the area already has a strong foothold, including big programs in Seattle and on the Eastside, which include the Eastside under 19 Lion’s program. Yeganeh said right now he is mostly focused on getting the word out and encouraging people to come to touch rugby practices with the Lion’s team in Newport Hills on Sunday mornings. Then, hopefully, as interest grows, Mercer Island can field its own team.

“Once we have enough interest, we can start our own touch session,” he said.

Traditionally, rugby is a fall and spring sport, but Yeganeh said high school teams play only in the spring, which makes it a great choice for athletes looking to stay in shape before fall sports begin.

“It’s a great way of cross training, and that’s the way I like to advertise it to people,” he said.

Ideally, a team has 19 players, with 15 on the field, Yeganeh said, but any number over 15 works.

“Any amount really works; other teams will graciously donate players if they have over the amount,” he said. “We’re just trying to get people to come out and have fun. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a blast. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing right now, it’s going to keep you fit. Touch rugby, especially — it is endurance based and there is no contact, so it’s not going to hurt you. I encourage anyone who has any sort of interest to get in better shape to come out and try it.”

The best part is that picking up the basics of rugby is easy, Yeganeh said.

“It’s very easy to learn and pick up. Rugby probably has 150,000 rules, but there are two basic rules and both of those are employed in touch rugby,” he explained.

The main difference between touch rugby and the kind played in games is the no-contact rule, and because of that it helps teach the strategy side of the game.

“It enables us to have people who have no experience with the game to have some strategy. It’s beneficial to getting the strategy behind rugby,” he said.

Most importantly, Yeganeh believes the Island is ripe for a team.

“There is plenty of competition around, and I think Mercer Island definitely can step up and have a team of athletes,” he said. “I feel like rugby is one of those sports where it really counts that everyone is an athlete and, really, I think it’s the best way to represent someone’s athleticism.”

Yeganeh encourages any high school boys who are interested in playing, or anyone who is interested in checking out rugby and learning more, to attend the touch practices held on Sunday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon at Newport Hills.

“I think it’s going to be fun,” said Yeganeh. “I think it’s going to be very interesting to see if we can get enough students, and if we do, I would love to move forward. I feel like this is the best way to share the best four years of my life with people in the community. It’s addictive. There should be a surgeon general’s warning on it. It’s fun and it gets you in shape.”

For more information on the team or to talk to Yeganeh about rugby, contact him via e-mail at or call (206) 755-0875.

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