One of the most popular sports in the world outside of the United States, rugby, has captured the hearts of a group of Slippery Rock University students.
Rugby is a contact sport originated in England in the first half of the 19th century. Rugby is close to American football where each team tries to advance the ball down the field in order to score.
Rugby is played as a club sport at Slippery Rock, not recognized by the NCAA but still competing against other universities. The men and women’s rugby teams formed over 30 years ago and compete competitively throughout the school year. The men’s team plays as a party of the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference (MARC) and the women’s team plays in the Allegheny Rugby Union.
In the fall, the teams play in their regular season, playing a game every week and competing towards their conference playoffs. The spring is known as tournament season, which is a more casual setting when the teams get to experience new places and play against different teams.
Sophomore communications major Piers Giles acts as the men’s team’s treasurer and said that the family atmosphere the team has is his favorite part.
“For the most part, actually, we don’t have people that have played before. We get a lot of people that are just interested in playing so their friends tell them to come out. It’s difficult sometimes to get recruits, but it’s such a fun sport, most people who come out and join us end up sticking around and have fun,” Giles said. “Our tournament season is more of a learning curve, it’s generally when we get more people to come out. It’s all about learning and getting better for the next season. When we go to these tournaments it’s about getting as much experience as possible, playing a lot of games and playing a lot of different teams.”
On Sat. April 16th the Slippery Rock rugby teams hosted their own tournament, the 35th Annual Rugby Fest, at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds. This was the 35th year for the men’s tournament and the first women’s tournament hosted by Slippery Rock in the last three years.
Six men’s and women’s teams came to the event, as well as teams made up of SRU alums.
Giles said the planning for hosting the tournaments started in January and it takes a lot of time and energy from everyone involved to make it work.
Senior fitness management major Julian Randall said that the teams are completely self-managed and self-coached.
“I help out every now and then, the captains preferably would like to be the younger guys and they are at this point. If I have any input I’ll say something. I have a leadership role, but not in the sense that I’m the captain. I’m pretty much the old guy on the team,” Randall said. “I love playing rugby. With rugby there’s definitely a family aspect to it. We bleed together, we bleed together and sometimes we even cry together.”
Sophomore exercise science major Sarah Abraham is the women’s team’s match secretary and was in charge of getting in contact with and inviting other teams to participate.
“Hosting a tournament was really cool. I was so excited to see everyone come out,” Abraham said. “I tell people not to be scared of how brutal you think (rugby) is. It doesn’t matter what size you are, there’s a position for everyone.”
While rugby continues to be an unfamiliar sport to most people in the US, the rugby club teams have a long tradition at Slippery Rock University and continue to draw in with its family atmosphere and competitive nature.