We Americans sure love our football. Something just riles us up when that ball snaps and our favorite players smash into each other with unequaled gusto, or our receiver takes the perfect line into the end zone. While all this frenzied action is terribly entertaining to watch, it isn’t all it could be, as most NFL players are slowed by an average of 20 pounds of padding. Watching on our big screen at home, we tend not to notice the restrictions the pads have on our athletes, but the athletes certainly do. Wearing several pounds of protection can inhibit an athlete’s performance and prevent them from exercising their true abilities. Just imagine how much more invigorating football could be if all that additional weight was not a factor.
Rugby is what many would consider the ancestor of modern day American football; it too has tackles, kick-offs, running plays and passes, but the similarities pretty much end there. The biggest difference? Players wear little to no protective gear whatsoever, and the game is sped up and more action-packed because of it. Sound like fun? Well fortunately for you, you are no longer required to travel all the way to Europe to take part in this mother-of-all-contact-sports, because Mr Lawrence and a dozen or so brave students have recently started up a rugby club at Woodland Park High School.
Conceptually, rugby is a fairly easy game to learn: the two rival teams attempt to obtain the ball and carry it over their opponent’s goal line in order to score a try. To do so, the offense must either run or kick the ball up the field. They also have the option of passing to each other, but they may only do so backwards to avoid the defense. If the defense manages to tackle the ball carrier au route however, then the whole thing degenerates in to a sort of organized chaos. There are no downs in rugby, so regardless of whether the carrier retained possession of the ball or not, the ball remains live throughout every tackle. This means that the first team, be it offense of defense, to pry the ball out of the fallen carrier’s hands gets possession and can start booking it towards their goal.
Rugby may sound just like it is merely comprised of a bunch of running and tackling, but it is really interwoven with other elements that strengthen and help a player grow overall. For example, insightful strategy must be employed if a team hopes to win a match. Players must be capable of organizing fakes and passes to evade the defense, or creating clever blocks and cover patterns to prevent the offense from advancing. Another essential element to play is the aspect of communication, as players must be able to adapt to their competitor’s strategy and change things on the fly if necessary. “If you don’t communicate, you don’t know where your teammates are on the field and you can’t pass to them” says freshman Alex Conlin.
It is unfortunate that America does not seem to hold the sport of Rugby in the same high-regard as the rest of the world seems to, because as a game it has so much to offer. Rugby can teach players valuable lessons and challenge them in mentally and physically in ways other sports just can not. Hopefully exposing the youth of America to Rugby through small clubs like the one now found at WPHS will increase interest in this unique sport, so that in the future we might be provided with an opportunity to partake of the action-packed gameplay it provides.