Lack of underclassmen hurts rugby

Rugby, as a professional sport, is thriving. The Rugby World Cup has just capped off a great showing in London and as a result, the sport seems to be on more advertisements and receiving more television coverage than ever before.

But the global interest has not translated into a similar affinity for ASL rugby. As it stands, five sophomores and just two freshmen represent the underclassmen currently on the rugby program.

While there have been occasional JV games in previous years, varsity players have had to complete the team because of limited numbers.  Thus, there has not been a true, organized JV team for the program since the fall of 2014. This lack of underclassmen participation poses a major problem for the rugby team.

Unfortunately, the underclassmen who joined the program are unable to succeed in game situations. Of the current sophomore group only three players have seen action in varsity games, while the other sophomores are striving to achieve varsity status.

It isn’t fair to these younger players, who show up to every practice and game, to not get an opportunity to feel what it is like to be a key member of a team.

That is what a JV team is for: to teach players the game, then how to impact the game. Players need the experience of being an important member of a team before they get to the varsity stage. The gradual progression of learning the game in JV, influencing the game in JV, learning the game in varsity, then influencing the game in varsity, is the route that I and the rest of current senior class took.

The senior class which I am a part of is fortunate to have been on a JV team that nurtured and developed us into the players we are today: players who are an integral part of the varsity team. 

But now, with the apparent dearth of underclassmen, the formation of a JV team remains a secondary issue. The team isn’t clawing for players right now with  a roster of 17 upperclassmen to suit up each game. Finding new, committed players that can carry on the varsity team after the 14 current seniors graduate, is the priority.

While the junior class has some very important players on the team, three players is certainly not enough to prevent the termination of the program for next year and possibly following ones thereafter.

Absence of participation from younger grades needs to change because if it doesn’t, a team for next year may be hard to come by. The team is looking for mentally tough players who can come in and help, whether it be through varsity involvement or JV players, if enough players join. Forming a JV squad, if possible, would provide valuable experience in game-time situations. The physicality is just a bonus, because even if you aren’t tough when you get to the team, the program will make you tough.

Younger, potential players shouldn’t be intimidated by the 14 seniors on the team. Rather, they should look forward to learning from us and being apart of something bigger than themselves. Not many teams have the strong upperclassman backbone that rugby does and joining now would provide an opportunity to learn from an established core, rather than needing to create one.

Rugby isn’t just another high school sport. It has special character, special benefits and forms a special relationship between teammates. No other team clobbers each other in practice, laughs afterwards and then uses that practice to smash opponents. No other team spends muddy, dark  nights late in January bonding. My best friends and some of my best accomplishments are through rugby. There is a major opportunity for anyone, especially underclassmen still wanting to join the program, to create the same memories that I have.

The rugby team has a solidified role at this school. Whether it be clashing with British schools in their own sport or helping with charity fundraisers like Breast Cancer Awareness night, the rugby team deserves to be carried on. Don’t let it falter into irrelevance.