As a high school Football coach, I have watched sports grow, develop and change over the last 25 years. When I began coaching, many of the schools were just starting to incorporate Soccer into their programming. Now, sports like Lacrosse and Field Hockey have become school sponsored events. One of the most perplexing of these new sports to football coaches is Rugby. I have to confess, I was wary of Rugby mainly due to ignorance. I like to think of myself as a fairly well-educated person who supports all of the sports at my school. The thought of another contact sport similar to football, but seemingly with less safeguards was a scary proposition to me. 6 years ago in the spring while anticipating my son’s baseball season, things changed.
My freshman son came home with a permission slip for Rugby at his school and a date for a parent meeting. I knew very little about this game and truly had not heard much about the team at his school. As I sat in the meeting with the other parents and watched the video show by these volunteer coaches, the thought went thru my head that “this won’t last long”. The first game was away at a local school and we packed up the car, ready to learn more. We sat in the stands of the football stadium and watched. It was strange for all of us, many of us new and clueless. The scoreboard was not on, we had no idea how long the periods were. These grown men were telling our kids what to do and encouraging them up and down the field. The other team scored and we kicked it back to them. We were clueless as to how many points it was worth and coming from football…should we not be getting the ball and having our turn to score? As I look back on it now, it is comical and the newbies in the stands that we were…probably were quite entertaining. 4 years later after 2 trips to the State playoffs and one to the Finals, we were rugby “Experts.”
That first year my wife became the faculty sponsor for the team and we immersed ourselves into the sport. I had resisted this sport for many years but began to instantly see the benefits to football. The kids became better football players because their fundamentals had to be perfect. Tackling, ball handling and communication all improved and would carry over to the football field. The aerobic nature of the sport was good for the linemen as well as the skill kids. Movement and flexibility, teamwork and comradery were part of the game for every player. I began to see teams like the Seattle Seahawks incorporate the tackling techniques as their defense rose to the top of the NFL rankings.
Perhaps the most impactful part of the sport was the opportunity it afforded to kids in the area of college scholarships. We had 2 to 3 kids awarded football scholarships and 4 or more being offered the opportunity in Rugby. Another plus we saw, is the fact that rugby is a lifelong sport with leagues of all ages and skill levels around the country. This has increased exponentially with the return of the sport to the Summer Olympics, the development of the professional teams in the US and the influx of knowledge about the game.
The most impressive part of the sport for me was the fellowship after the games. Both teams would meet and share a meal together at the conclusion. Quite a contrast from a quick handshake after our football contests. Football will always be a sport that I love, but rugby has become a sport that I love to watch. The brute force and finesse, the pure athleticism and desire are all showcased in a game about comradery and friendship.
There are many clubs in the Houston area and a new Professional Team, The Sabercats beginning this spring. We are working with the Arrows Football Club www.arrowsrugby.com on a special event on April 2 at St. Pius X High School. More info will follow in the next couple of days. You can follow the Arrows on twitter @ArrowsRFC. And facebook at https://www.facebook.com/arrowsrugby/