A Hooligan Sport Played by Gentleman
A game that encompasses the power of football, the finesse of soccer and the speed of track, rugby is the largest growing sport in the United States—and the newest club sport at Centre College.
Under the leadership of William Weber, who teaches English at Centre, the club—in the works since last fall—has been officially recognized by the Student Government Association, held its first organizational meeting, elected officers and has even roughed it out in a few practices.
According to Weber, the team is coming together nicely, an impressive feat considering the game’s complexities. “They are all fast learners and strong athletes,” he says. “It’s a joy to see how quickly they are taking to the game.”
Club President Max Addington ’18 agrees. “Rugby is probably the most dynamic sport I have ever encountered,” he says. “There are so many rules to the game. Every player in rugby is expected to run the ball, throw the ball, kick the ball and, most importantly, make tackles.”
A sport of many facets in regards to strength, speed and strategy, the club has drawn individuals from all backgrounds. “Some of us played sports in high school, and some of us are looking to get in shape and have a good time doing so,” Addington explains. “Despite our differences, we really have come together cohesively, quickly filling the roles of a typical rugby team.”
While this is the first experience many of the players have had with the sport, Weber himself is an avid fan with an impressive rugby background. After falling in love with the game on a trip to New Zealand, he began playing competitively at Sewanee and then went on to play another four years with New Haven RFC, a Men’s Division 1 club. He then topped off his involvement with the sport by becoming a certified referee and completing his coaching certification this past fall. “I’ve long harbored the desire to coach at the college level,” he says. “It’s been great getting to make that dream a reality here at Centre.”
Though Weber admits that organizing a new team can be challenging, he notes the marked synergy of the players as they look to move forward with the goals they established in their first meeting.
“We’re focused on getting everything in place to host at least one competitive home match before the end of the semester. There’s a long way to go in terms of both logistics and preparation, but I’m positive that if the school will let us play, we’ll be ready.”
While the team already boasts an impressive roster, they still hope to gain a few more members. And, with interest continually growing across campus, the team stresses that it’s not too late to come find out what rugby is all about. Practices are held every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. on the football field, as well as most Saturdays from 2-4 p.m.
“We’ve had more and more new recruits coming out to every practice,” reports Weber. Guy or girl, “the club is open to anyone who wants to learn a new sport that they can play for years—there are men’s and women’s amateur clubs in cities all around the country.”
For those who are simply curious about rugby, and looking for a terrific introduction to its fast-paced action, there are some exciting competitions coming up soon—the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, where rugby will be included for the first time since 1924, when the US won the gold medal.
As the season begins to advance, Weber reflects on his ultimate intentions for establishing the team. “I want to give any and all Centre students who are interested in rugby the opportunity to learn the game and master the fundamentals, which I hope will give them both the capability and the desire to continue their involvement with the sport for years to come.”
by Mariah Pohl ’15