One of the hottest new student organizations to spend a Saturday with this school year is the LeTourneau Rugby Club. Alex Hardinge recently visited the team for a rugby tutorial and history lesson about the sport and its appearance on our campus. Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of his narrative!
As I walked towards the South practice field this past Saturday to view the rugby club’s weekly practice, many questions ran through my mind. What is rugby, and how is it played? What kind of people would want to play this sport? How is it different than football? But most importantly, would I get dog-piled on?
I must admit that beforehand I had many misconceptions about rugby which shaped my view on what I expected to see. I feared that at the very best I would just be watching a ramble of guys confusedly tossing around a ball, and at worst be privy to a violent display of testosterone-fueled men violently hitting each other for enjoyment. I instead found that I was allowed the privilege to view a sport that requires just as much intelligence, finesse, and sportsmanship as any other could claim to have. Instead of chaos, I found that strategy and teamwork were foundational to the game. Instead of mere brute force, I found that finesse and intelligence played just as important a role as strength. Instead of men just wanting to pulverize each other, I found a brotherhood (and sisterhood!) of guys having fun and growing closer together while playing the incredible sport of rugby.
My experience at a typical rugby practice
When I arrived I was welcomed by Vincent Purvis, the President of the LeTourneau Rugby Club. Within the first five minutes I knew that if I ever play rugby again, I will want Vincent on my team. He introduced me to the rest of the club and was quickly able to dispel of most of my misconceptions. Throughout the rest of the practice, he patiently explained to me the ins and outs of the game.
Most of the players had already stretched and begun performing passing drills by the time I came. The drills focused on practicing controlled passing, and were performed with both left and right passes. One such exercise was the four-corner drill, in which a player would have to catch the ball and then run to the next corner and pass it to the awaiting player. As they were continuing to warm up, I looked out onto their soon-to-be field of battle. It had rained heavily the previous two nights, and South field had done its best to absorb every single drop. The muddy conditions did not faze the men of the rugby club, though, and in fact, many jokes were made about how most of them had worn white shirts.
Soon after the warm-ups were done, cones were placed onto the field and the teams separated into their respective halves. I asked Vincent how they divided up the teams and he explained that they just try to keep them evenly matched. So for any of us with self-esteem issues, you don’t have to worry about being picked last or have the fear that a team of veterans will overwhelm a team of beginners. The first portion of playing consisted of two-hand touch rugby. This allows players to focus more on the strategy and rules of the game, since it is much easier to stop a person by touching them instead tackling them.
But fear not, there was plenty of tackling to be had! Once the game of touch rugby was finished, the players took a short break before returning for tackle. The tension was almost tangible before the first kick, but soon afterwards smiles could be seen as players found their groove. I was impressed with the effort and enjoyment each player placed into the game. Players would fearlessly throw themselves in front of much larger opponents in order to stop them, and various calls rang out as teams positioned themselves to try and outmaneuver each other. Within minutes, players’ once-white shirts carried the stains of the earth on which they either victoriously had brought down their opponents or had been forced to cease in their progression. Even towards the end, when exhaustion and pain had settled in, I could easily tell that each player was enjoying every minute of the game. But perhaps the most impressive thing to me was the deep comradery of the entire club throughout the match. Not once could I see any anger towards other members, just players giving their all for a sport they loved.
Afterwards, I joined the group as they walked over to Saga. The sun was just beginning to descend in the sky, and the mood lightened as the thought of food overcame the exhaustion shared by all. While eating, I could hear various stories about the game as laughter rang throughout Saga. I reflected on the comradery and enjoyment that I had been witness to and was also very grateful that I had not been dog-piled on. It had been a good day for rugby.
Written by Alex Hardinge.