Rugby, 1st practice
The first practice of Missouri Rugby I attended left me understanding little of the game, and a lot about the team. The knowledge I brought in was minimal. I knew the basics of tackling people and the process that followed. I had a vague understanding of a scrum, but not when it was supposed to happen. Line-outs were a word without a definition, and I understood that at some point players kicked the ball extremely high and extremely far.
I ended the day knowing little more than that. At one point I asked a player how many positions there were, and he answered “There’s 15 on each side.”
Then he listed them off. There were things like wings, forward, hookers, props. I find it easier to think of the team in terms of forwards and backs. Half the team plays forward, and half the team plays back. From what I can tell, the smaller guys are usually backs.
I also didn’t quite understand when players were supposed to kick, and when they were supposed to run. However, I think the likely answer is field position. When you’re deep in your own territory, it would make since to air the ball out instead of turn it over next to your try line.
Try lines, by the way, are the lines one has to cross and down the ball in order to score a try (like a touchdown).
The sport itself remains a mystery, but not the team. I expected to find a bunch of guys who were stoic, deadly serious, with coaches who screamed and yelled. Not so.
The coaches for the team are players who know more about the positions than other players on the team. There is a certain amount of respect given each “coach” in the sense that the players listen to what they say and do each drill. That doesn’t keep them from talking when it isn’t their turn to hit or get hit.
These players are out there to have fun. Smiles abounded, there were laughs and playful punches and jibes everywhere I looked. The goal was to get better, but the method was to have a good time.
It was by no means easy, though. These players are running and hitting each other without pads. For two hours. Voluntarily.
The practice began with a touch scrimmage as players trickled in from the parking lot. During touch, there isn’t any contact, it’s purely to warm up. Next there were general stretches, before the team ran a drill where they practiced rucking. One person would kick the ball into the air, and a group of players would then catch it. Whoever caught it would run forward and then fall to the ground, where he would instantly be surrounded by other players, they would roll the ball backward, and then pass it out to a wing. The cluster of players on the ground is called a ruck.
Then the team split up into two groups, forwards and backs. The forwards practiced setting up and driving scrums on a practice dummy as well as plays during lineouts and lifting each other. By comparison, the backs ran drills around cones to work on agility as well as passing and catching.
Then the team came together for another scrimmage, this time with contact. This was followed by some very serious conditioning. I learned that there are conditioning workouts on Mondays and Wednesdays.
These players aren’t on scholarship. They pay dues in order to keep the team running, but dues are only 75 dollars. What keeps these guys out there on the pitch is the simple fact that they are going out and doing what they love.
The end of day one leaves me understanding little about the game, but a lot about the man.