I didn't always love rugby.
Just over three years ago I was first introduced to rugby while my son was in middle school. I hated the idea of him playing such a rough sport and I secretly hoped he would hate it too. But he didn’t hate it, so then I started hoping he would just lose interest and move on to something safer. Like rowing.
But neither of those things happened. In fact, within just a couple of weeks of playing his first game, he approached us about changing his high school plans and pursuing entrance to a rugby academy. And that’s when I went and had a chat with his coach to see what this nonsense was all about! Within minutes of speaking to him though, I felt my apprehension ease. Suddenly I began to see what rugby people already knew – the game was going to teach my son way more than just how to play.
It took about a full year of my son playing rugby before I realized that I was truly enjoying the game. I mean I actually began to look forward to game day and even took vacation time to leave work early to be at the field for kick off.
At the field, I began having conversations with people who have their roots deeply planted in the local rugby community and I gained a better appreciation of what it means to be a rugger. The guys and girls who play this sport and those who support them are a tight-knit group who look out for each other. The camaraderie is genuine. They are like family. One person I met shared with me that every job they had ever had came from a connection they had made while playing rugby. And I see this in my club’s Facebook group – members offering everything from jobs to free furniture to members first. Taking care of each other first.
So how did I go from hoping my son would quit to developing such a passion for the game that I will attend without him? First it has got to be the people – genuine, caring, helpful and eager to share their knowledge with the next generation of athletes. Ruggers and those that support them have a sense of belonging to the greater rugby community.
And then there is the action! I’m a life-long ice hockey fan. I love the speed, the intensity, the skill and the excitement. Hockey has it all and so does rugby! The action, the thrills, the awe-inspiring plays. It really is a fantastic spectator sport.
Finally, I love the many skills that rugby players learn through practice and game play that are easily transferable to everyday living: teamwork, integrity, discipline, respect, communication and how to deal with winning and losing with class and dignity. Participants face a number of adverse situations when playing rugby and learning to navigate those within the context of a game provides valuable learning opportunities. Team sports should be required for all youth – that’s how we grow kind, compassionate and well-rounded adults.