Rugby experience brings pleasure through pain for local enthusiasts

When I was young I loved playing tackle football. Unfortunately there wasn’t a Pop Warner league where I grew up. To make matters worse, tackling was considered a penalty in flag-football.

With such restrictions in organized events, my friends and I used every opportunity to play “backyard” football or a game called smear the alien. Adolescent boys universally know the latter game by a similar name that today is considered offensive. Smear the alien was a simple yet highly entertaining game. One person had a football (or tennis ball or plastic bottle or whatever) and everyone else tried to tackle that person. Sometimes new or bastardized versions of smear the alien were invented but tackling was always the one common element of the game. I don’t know what it is about boys and hitting each other but there is something innately satisfying about it.

In the seventh game of my senior season in high school, I broke my thumb and officially ended my organized football career. When a group of rugby players approached me about playing that spring, I jumped at the opportunity. For the past eight years, the springtime had been reserved for baseball. Maybe my shortened football season played into the decision or maybe I liked the idea of drinking beer with the rugby team on Friday afternoons better than sweating through baseball practice. Either way, that spring I made the fateful decision to trade America’s pastime for some foreign game that looked like a bunch of guys running into each other with wild abandon. I made the right choice.

For me, rugby is an organized mix of backyard football, smear the alien and all the other games my friends and I used to make up to pass our free time. The game combines running, passing, catching, kicking and tackling. To the untrained eye, rugby looks lawless. In reality, it is a sophisticated game with clearly defined rules that are not difficult to learn, although a complete understanding of the game’s strategies and intricacies takes years to fully understand. The myth that rugby players need to be gigantic is also a falsehood as is proven by my 5’10’’, 170 lb. frame.

Playing rugby in high school opened a door to continue playing organized sports in college. For thousands and thousands of high school athletes, their senior year marks the end of their organized athletic careers. Rugby is an opportunity for high school athletes from all sports who love competition and team camaraderie but aren’t competing at the next level to continue playing competitive sports.

Playing rugby grants a person instant access into a new community as well. Almost every city of a decent size in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, New Zealand or Australia has a rugby club. When I moved to Anchorage four years ago, I instantaneously had a group of people to play rugby or have some drinks with.

 

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The 2005 summer rugby season will be starting next week and continuing through August. If you or anyone you know has any interest in trying out a new sport, meeting new people, or reliving the feeling of team camaraderie, call Asher Harley at 227-6047 or email at [email protected] Everyone is welcome. NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY.