Father’s Day, Ray Green, Rugby and Greatness

Indiana – Today we celebrate Father’s Day, and while it may be a cliché, the simple words of “Thank you, Dad” still hold such great meaning.  I think the gifts we give dads on Father’s Day pale in comparison to the gifts they give us, the best ones being intangibles such as wisdom and love.  You may be curious as to how this ties in with rugby, so let me explain.

when i was great, by Ray Green

when i was great, by Ray Green.

Over Christmas, I bought myself a present for my stocking – this little book called When I Was Great, by Ray Green (Cal Rugby Golden Bearhusband and father).   I peeled off the packaging, settled in a comfy chair with some hot cocoa, and opened the fresh pages.  Forty-five minutes later, my brief respite from Christmas season duties was over way too soon but fortunately I was left with many things to contemplate.  The book found its way to a shelf, winter settled in, and still what Ray said in his book stayed with me.

I bring this up on Father’s Day, because as Ray mentions in his book, it was on Father’s Day in 2012 that, as he says, “his mind was blown.”  He discovered something in himself that I think we all strive to achieve – greatness.  In this lovely book, Ray shares his lifelong journey of seeking greatness.  “I decided a long time ago that I was going to be GREAT,” he states on the very first page.  He leads us through his different sports endeavors, through his years as a Cal Rugby Golden Bear under the tutelage of the great Jack Clark, all the way to his playing for the USA Eagles.  But as it goes for most of us, nothing was easy.  Injuries kept popping up, and while after reading this I think Ray must be one of the toughest men on the planet, the injuries did curtail his rugby playing career.  And yet he kept striving for that elusive greatness.

It was the way Ray found out he was great that is so poignant on Father’s Day.  Of course, it was through his children with the assistance of his wonderful wife.  Ray brilliantly writes, “We all see the world through lenses. Some of us wake up with a fresh lens/perspective every morning and others of us keep dusty, old, outdated ones around for far too long.  It’s all about the layers of life that we choose to apply to our world.”  Brilliant.

Me and My Dad many years ago

Me and My Dad many years ago

Ray has given his children not only the gift of a great father but the gift of great wisdom as well.  My own father gave me this gift, too – simple yet profound.  The best advice my dad ever gave me was “It’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.”  It’s not new, it’s probably been said a thousand times, but the fact that my dad said it to me made all the difference.  Dads are good at this, I think.

Of course, I have only part of my Father’s Day shopping done, and it’s, well, here!  But, that’s better than what it could have been since until Thursday, I thought it was next weekend.  The part I did get done is good – my husband will get to see our USA Eagles take on the New Zealand All Blacks in November at Soldier’s Field in Chicago.  Of course, I’m going, too. And after last night’s valiant effort versus Japan, we are excited to share this Father’s Day gift together!

Works Cited:  Green, Ray. When I Was Great. San Bernadino, CA: Ray Green, 2013. Print. Ebook.

Check out Ray’s book at http://www.wheniwasgreat.com!

Mother’s Day Rugby Toast to Rugby Moms

Today, Sunday, May 11, we’re celebrating Mother’s Day in the U.S. Here in Indiana, during rugby season, Saturdays are generally reserved for boys’ contests while Sundays feature girls’ contests. Today, I’m lucky enough to be at a rugby pitch celebrating Mother’s Day with many fellow rugby moms. And I thought, what better way to celebrate this special day and these special women with rugby thoughts from a few of my favorite rugby moms and ruggers. Hope you enjoy them!

“How do I love thee rugby? Let me count the ways… I love the passion it inspires and the sound of the full-throated crowd as our team streaks to glory (though not, sadly, away from home). I love the smell of the stadium and the thrill of the chase as I find the perfect spot on the sidelines. Above all, I love the fact that in a year’s time, our son will finally be able to join our town’s rugby club. Will he fulfill the paediatrician’s prediction that he’ll be among the Castres Olympique second row? Here’s hoping… Happy Mother’s Day to one and all!”

Scheenagh, proud rugby wife and future all-star rugby mum

“I have enjoyed watching my son mature and grow, not only physically but mentally as well. I know it has a lot to do with the awesome coach he has, but it is also a reflection of the “international fraternity” that exists with rugby players. Our motto this year is “Family”, and it is so fitting with the group of young men on our team, many of which have played several sports together over the years. I see a difference in them when playing rugby, and it’s a good thing. And as I said before… I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and know it will be over soon, which I dread.”

Jill, proud rugby mom

“When my son began playing rugby, I was not an active supporter of his participation. After seeing the satisfaction my son would have after a hard-earned win, I had to start becoming more involved. Over the last several years, I have been privileged to watch my son be a part of good sportsmanship, camaraderie, and a family playing rugby. He has made close friends and pushed himself physically and mentally. He has developed leadership skills as a team captain. As he is getting ready to graduate, I have seen the many benefits of rugby.”

Heather, proud rugby mom

“My daughter brags about her bruises. She loves to play and show me her bruises. And I love to see her smile!”

Tracy, proud rugby mom

“My son Roberto discovered rugby in Jr. High, and I have been a fan ever since. This is a fast-paced game, not much down time at all. I love the fellowship, everyone pitching in to help, feeding the teams after games. The tournaments are the best and the boys get to travel sometimes, like when they are on a 7s team. It builds character unlike any other sport. Also, no matter what position you play, everyone can run the ball. I loved learning this sport. I’m a rugby mom for life! Ruck on!”

Robin, proud rugby mom

And from a few wonderful rugger sons….

“In New Zealand, part of pretty much every Mum’s life is taking their kids to play rugby at some stage of their life, which means waking up early on Saturday mornings and standing in some pretty awful winter conditions.

My mum remembers: ‘It was always so freezing but it was worth it to watch Jamie play, even if he wasn’t as good as the other boys and never scored a try.’

Mum was always worried that I’d get knocked out, so when I did I would always lie to her and say I was just having a rest to stop her from worrying.”

– Jamie, rugby player, son of a very proud rugby mum

“I don’t have many specific memories that involve both my mom and rugby.  But, she has three Rugger Children, so she certainly offered plenty of support to us as we played over the years.  I talked to my sister who remarked that she never heard Mom say, “Don’t get hurt” or “Be careful.”  That doesn’t mean she didn’t want us to be careful or stay healthy-she just let us focus on the challenge and the opportunity without letting the risk outweigh the reward.  This “sure, you can do it” attitude wasn’t limited to rugby.  My mom, Jane Thurston, encouraged us to find the things that made us happy and seemed to draw satisfaction and pride from our love of rugby.  For this and so much more, I am thankful on this Mother’s Day.”

–   James, rugby player, son of a very proud rugby mom

“I don’t have many specific memories that involve both my mom and rugby.  But, she has three Rugger Children, so she certainly offered plenty of support to us as we played over the years.  I talked to my sister who remarked that she never heard Mom say, “Don’t get hurt” or “Be careful.”  That doesn’t mean she didn’t want us to be careful or stay healthy-she just let us focus on the challenge and the opportunity without letting the risk outweigh the reward.  This “sure, you can do it” attitude wasn’t limited to rugby.  My mom, Jane Thurston, encouraged us to find the things that made us happy and seemed to draw satisfaction and pride from our love of rugby.  For this and so much more, I am thankful on this Mother’s Day.”

–   Matt, rugby player, son of a very loving rugby mom

I think I can relate to every single one of these thoughts here. We mums worry, no doubt, but we love seeing our kids with smiles on their faces! A toast to all of you rugby mums: Thank you for allowing your child to play this wonderful sport! Cheers!

Share your comments below, and follow me on Twitter @Mumscrum! You can also find me on Rugby Wrap-Up

Rugby + Life

It’s not a big secret that I love sports – almost any kind. I don’t actually participate in that many, but I do enjoy watching. Anything from golf to auto racing to basketball to football to rugby… all these are fair game for television viewing. And they range from the very singular sport of golf to the very team-oriented sport of rugby. [And I can hear the arguments being made right now that auto racing is a team sport, but we don’t have time for that discussion at the moment.]

Sports in general serve many purposes, among them helping kids (and adults) figure out things like schedules, self-discipline, and working with others. But they also help us figure out life, that interesting, wonderful roller coaster. If you really think about it, in the best and worst of days, life is filled with moments & little surprises that should make us smile if we’re paying close enough attention. It doesn’t always go the way we planned, and sometimes we get thrown a curveball, other times a hardball that’s easy to hit out of the park.

So, I found myself at a rugby practice the other day, pondering life in general. And as I watched a bit of this rugby practice, I couldn’t help but think how similar to life rugby really is, more so than other sports, imho.

More than any other sport I’ve been involved with, and by “involved with” I mean write a check, rugby is the most different, most unique. Is it because it’s from another country and uses weird terms? Well, yes, that’s true, it is and it does. But it’s unique for a lot of reasons. Primarily, rugby is a very fluid game (like life); it relies on players physically helping and supporting each other (scrums and rucks=friends and family); it involves players who ideally should know 3 positions (plans a-c); and after the match, the social brings everyone together. Rugby fans are fond of saying rugby is a way of life, but to me, it also resembles life.

Rugby’s fluidity is exciting – the constant changes in direction of play, the scrums, the tackles… these are all very exciting aspects of the game. It’s what keeps me glued to the play. And isn’t life constantly changing? Keeping us on our toes? The plans we make get changed all the time – we adapt. That direction we thought our life was taking us? Whoops – here’s a roadblock. But we continue to have faith, we continue to strive forward, because one day we’re going to be holding the ball and we’re going to score. And those moments are priceless.

Unlike some sports where a kid may be pigeon-holed in a certain position, in rugby, players are encouraged to know at least 3 positions. If you lose a player, then someone else can step in and be supportive. How many times do we talk about all the different hats we wear in our lives? And let’s talk about the scrum – can you say group hug? On the sidelines you might hear cheers of “Support! Support!” It’s key to support your fellow players on the pitch, be there when they fall to get the ball and help them get up. You’ve gotta have this support in life as well.

Ruggers must be continuously aware of what’s happening on the field all the time, all over the place. They’re not held to just taking care of one person that affects their position. Sometimes they don’t always play their position correctly – sometimes in life we mess up. But the team keeps on playing, and provides opportunities to play better, “fix” a mistake; in life, we keep on going, and our friends and family provide us opportunities to do it better the next time. In that, I must have faith.

And that’s life. Sometimes we knock it on, and sometimes we screw up the scrum. No question. But sometimes we kick it straight through the goalposts, and those are the moments for which we live, strive and play. That part between the knock-on’s and the try’s, that’s the journey we call rugby/life. And while my faith helps me to know that I’m not alone on the journey, I kind of think that a good rugby match helps me to know that, too.

Share your comments below, and follow me on Twitter @Mumscrum! You can also find me on Rugby Wrap-Up!

Respect Your Ref, Please and Always

If you’ve ever been to a high school football or basketball game in America, then you know there are more than a few people who think they know how the game should be played and officiated.  As a Hoosier (native of Indiana), I can tell you that probably most people in Indiana have a good sense of basketball.  Not only that, we’ll tell you how to run the offense, when you should use man-to-man vs. zone defense, and when to call a time-out.  We know the game, and we’re not afraid to let the coach or the officials know just what we think.

I say “we” in a general sense – most of us are actually pretty good, muttering under our breath when an over-the-back call is clearly missed or a blatant travel goes uncalled.  We know our limitations and understand that while we can recognize a pick-and-roll, not all of us can actually perform it well.  But don’t tell that to the few folks with the vocal cords to match their opinions!  I’ve been to elementary school games where a few parents have genuinely spoiled the experience for everyone involved.  It’s not fun and quite frankly, I feel badly for the kids no matter the team.Ref at NC Ruggerfest 2014

So when I discovered rugby, one of the first things I noticed was the lack of “coaching” from the parents and fans, and a greater respect for the referee.  Of course, every now and then, there would be an exception to that rule, but for the most part we were all staring wide-eyed out into this vast field trying in vain to understand just what was going on.  It was actually a huge unifier for parents of opposing teams – bonded as we helped each other figure out the game (I was on the receiving end of help for my first two years, for sure).

The most difficult part of not knowing about rugby was learning about the tackles.  It’s one thing to be up in the stands many yards away from the field for a football game, thinking your son is safe because he’s wearing pads.  It’s quite another to be feet away, hearing the tackling sounds, and seeing the “unprotected” kids going down to the ground.  So, any “coaching/officiating suggestions” from the sidelines were probably geared towards hitting and tackling, because we just weren’t used to this and we didn’t realize that the tackles being made and the rules applied to them were so different from those in football.

The deference to the rugby referee isn’t accidental.  It’s part of the Code of Conduct that we parents sign off on here in Indiana, and it is part of the rugby culture.  Only the coaches are entitled to speak to the referee, and even then the opinion of the referee is respected.  Parents are instructed to keep quiet on the sidelines regarding calls made.  I have a great deal of respect for our rugby referees because I know how hard they work so our kids can play this game.

Referees need to be certified in order to work youth matches.  And, your state rugby referee society may offer clinics from time to time for newer referees, or to help seasoned professionals understand rule changes.  If you see a referee clinic offered in your area, I highly recommend that you sit in on the session.  You will learn a lot, hear the nuances discussed in great detail, and perhaps have a greater appreciation for your local rugby referees.

In our club, we have a “culture keeper”, a designated individual for each game who maintains a cordial atmosphere.  Luckily, we’ve never really had to remember who the culture keeper is for most games because we have a fairly good group of parents.  In the event of a parent or fan speaking rudely to a referee, perhaps “suggesting” medical devices such as eyewear, he or she would be kindly asked to refrain from such talk, or be asked to remove themselves from the playing field.

Our Kindly Ref at NC Ruggerfest 2014

I asked The Ref, Cody Kuxmann (an American Ref in London who also contributes to Rugby Wrap-Up), if it was any different in England.  He said that “what [he’s] realized is there’s a lot more discussion here afterwards. [Perhaps] it’s a cultural thing, though.… English are polite in general, but the discussion can end up being ‘You were wrong; here is why I think so.’’ Cody feels “that America’s yelling is a bit different” and that “as talent goes up in America, it gets worse as more people know what’s going on.”  In England, he’s “noticed it gets worse” but believes it’s more of a numbers game due to higher attendance.

I hope that our atmosphere doesn’t change too much when people get more familiar with the game.  Personally, I like this culture, and I like just enjoying a match without feeling the need to coach it.  So, if you’re a newbie rugby parent, remember:  While you may be close to Michael Jordan in your knowledge of basketball, or John Madden with football, you don’t have to be a premier rugger like Jonny Wilkinson to enjoy the game.  Just watch it for what it is – the most fast-moving, exciting contact sport on the planet.  Oh, and give your rugby referee a thank you and a hug!

Share your comments below, and follow me on Twitter  @Mumscrum!  You can also find me on Rugby Wrap-Up!

It’s All About the Food

Without food, is a rugby match a true rugby match??  In fact, for many mums, dads and players, it’s the best part of the sport!  As Liz Weinstein, Avon Rugby Golden Swarm coach (Avon, IN), states, “I think the social part after the game is one reason we have returning players and continue to grow as a young team.”

In an earlier post, I talked about the social and what we do for our team.  But I wanted to know… what do other teams do?  In an effort to learn more, not only did I become quite hungry, but I found out that everyone enjoys talking about food!  And a great time to plan your social food is now, before the season starts (at least for us Midwesterners!).

The social is the part after the match that provides an opportunity for camaraderie between the hosts and guests, centered around the breaking of bread.  At the adult level, a social often includes going out after the match to a local watering hole or restaurant.  Sam DiFilippo helps coach a local men’s club, the Fort Wayne Rugby Club.  He says that sometimes a team will offer food at the field, but it “sometimes … doesn’t meet the needs of a real social, depending on the facilities and the weather.”  For youth and high school teams, the socials are generally right on the sidelines of the field.

Lots of food for hungry ruggers!

Lots of food for hungry ruggers!

The basic menu involves a main dish (monster sub sandwich, hot dog/brat, pizza, etc.), a side or two, and a drink.  Several clubs I spoke with offer pizza, chips and a drink – it’s easy, delivered hot and fresh, and minimal food prep is required.  The Bishop Dwenger Saints (Fort Wayne, IN) moms like to have fruit available, usually bananas and oranges, some sort of protein/granola bar, a dessert of some sort, like cookies or brownies and water bottles.

Trevor Cracknell, coach at Warsaw High School in Warsaw, IN, says standard fair for his Tigers is pizza or Wal-Mart fried chicken.  He told me of one of his rugby parents who owned a commercial BBQ and provided pulled pork with all the trimmings for a day when they hosted a total of 5 teams.  Yum!!  [Now, Trevor is from England, so of course this led to a discussion of the possibility of true English fish and chips for after a match.  We’re working on a suitable recipe, with some help from James Harrington, and we’ll keep you posted.]

One of the best testaments to the game and social comes in the form of a compliment.  Curt Trout, head coach of the Fishers High School Tigers in Central Indiana, says that some of the best socials they attend are at Brownsburg High School, home of the Brownsburg Bulldogs.  Curt attributes part of their continual success to the efforts of Liz and Guy Clossey.  Although their son graduated several years ago, they continue to be involved with the club and help with socials.  Last year, Fishers played LaSallette at Brownsburg, and Liz and Guy helped feed the team.  As Curt says, “they are incredible people”.   Indeed!

My food journey also took me to Boca Raton, Florida.  Carrie Dowling, aka “Carrie the Rugby Mom” as she introduces herself, is involved with the Boca Raton Junior Buccaneers Rugby Club.  While they often do pizza for the youngsters, they sometimes play teams that provide a full Argentinian BBQ!  As Carries says, “It is amazing!  They have large grills they tow behind their cars and trucks.  Flank steak served hot off the grill on fresh bread with chips and a drink.  Our parents get excited when we know we are going to these clubs!”

Of course, every club has to operate within its budget constraints.  Not everyone will be able to do a full Argentinian BBQ, and some clubs will opt for homemade items.  Things like pizza and subs can also be a great low-cost main dish.  Last year was my first as the parent of a girl rugger, and the Bishop Dwenger Lady Saints had the great fortune of playing the Avon Rugby Golden Swarm for their very first match, on a cold, cloudy, wet, and windy St. Patrick’s Day.  Thankfully, the social made the day sunny!

The Avon parents treating Bishop Dwenger Lady Saints to classic St. Patrick's Day fare.

The Avon parents treating Bishop Dwenger Lady Saints to classic St. Patrick’s Day fare.

Parents Dawn Cook and her husband, an England-born-and-raised rugger, were instrumental in putting together the socials for the first season of the Avon team.  Dawn told me about this first social:  “Since the game was on St. Patrick’s Day, and we enjoy socializing on that day, my husband and I felt what a great theme.  I made several trays of shepherd’s pie and three pots of beef stew; along with that we had Hawaiian rolls, green Gatorades and for dessert my kids decorated green cupcakes with St. Patrick’s decorations.  I purchased green and white decorations and Hawaiian leis.  It was fun and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.”  I loved this so much that I took a picture of the Avon parents serving food – they were all so nice and I look forward to seeing them this year!

I’d LOVE to hear what’s being served up at your rugby socials!  Any new food ideas? All this food talk has made me hungry!  In the meantime, remember – while it’s all about the food, it’s also about the smiles on the kids’ faces – and those are abundant at socials!

Share your comments below, and follow me on Twitter – Mumscrum!  You can also find me on Rugby Wrap-Up!

Youth Rugby Wants YOU!

Rugby 7s is on NBC, I’m watching snow squalls fly past my window and next to me sits steaming hot coffee.  Perfect!  I wish our weather matched that of Las Vegas, but I’ll settle for watching the USA Sevens Las Vegas Invitational on television.  (Actually, if truth be told, I love the snow and this has been a great winter for that!)  I’m passing the time waiting for our Eagles to play later today, and just getting excited about watching our high school players in a few months… provided the snow melts.  🙂

During the off season, while mums and kids are making sure they’ve got the proper equipment to survive the next 3-4 months with zero unexpected trips to the sporting goods store, lots of coaches and referees are using this time to further advance their rugby education.  There are coaching and refereeing classes going on in all corners of the country right now –  just check out USA Rugby’s website (Coaches: http://usarugby.org/coaching-courses/course-calendar ; Referees: http://usarugby.org/referee-courses).  With all of these classes available, now is the perfect time for those of you who play/played rugby to help us expand youth programs!

In the movie Breaking Away (great movie, by the way), Cyril says “We may plead, but we would never beg.”  I’m definitely pleading. And I may beg.  All of us involved with rugby, whether in a parental role, player, coach, referee, administrator, etc., want to grow this sport in a proper manner.  That means having coaches and referees who are certified and know the laws of rugby.  The best candidates for these roles are those who are currently playing or have played in the past.

If you’ve played, you’re more familiar with rugby laws than those of us who just watch from the sidelines.  We need your expertise.  Our kids need your expertise.  Rugby Development Officers in many states are actively working to teach rugby to kids through Rookie Rugby, Try On Rugby, and other programs.  Once the kids have learned about rugby, it’s imperative that we have opportunities in place for them to pursue the sport.

It’s amazing how many people I meet who played rugby in college.  They come out of the woodwork!  I am thinking of at least 3 people I know just from living next door or through friends that could help by coaching or refereeing.  Our future rugby coaches and refs are our friends, neighbors, co-workers and maybe even our relatives!  Currently playing rugby in college or high school?  Consider getting certified now to help us out in the summer or fall.

Share your love of rugby with a local program; let your heart be warmed with a child’s smile as he/she gives rugby a try. (And for a quick peek into how youth rugby can put smiles on kids’ faces, take a look at this video from Rugby Indiana:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=34jMdFd0o3c.)

These things don’t magically happen; it takes dedicated individuals to make it work.  Maybe that dedicated person is YOU.

A Rugby Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,

Not a rugger was stirring, not even the little rugger wanna-be mouse.

The long socks were hung in the laundry room with care,

Along with jerseys and shorts, just one lonely pair.

 

 Little Mark was hoping for a new Gilbert ball,

In the Eagles colors, as he hoped for “the call”.

His head filled with dreams of a stadium in Indy,

Filled to the brim, just like at Wembley.

(Because there is more than auto racing in Indiana ☺ )

 

Little Lucy pictured herself more of an All Blacks fan,

Thinking the traditional black jersey would look really glam.

Also on her list for jolly ol’ St. Nick this year –

A nice Try On Rugby shirt, to add to her gear.

 

Little Rosie was the youngest, and would not be outdone;

She wanted a Wallaby hat to add to her fun.

(And to irritate her All Blacks fan sister…)

And while rugby may not be her game of choice,

She still enjoys watching, both the perils and joys.

(And helping with the social afterwards, testing the cookies…)

 

With Mama in her pj’s, and I in my scrumcap,

We settled in for the eve with the tele and a nightcap.

Christmas movies all around, to fill with good cheer,

And another view of Invictus, to bring in the new year.

 

Snow-covered pitches await a fresh spring,

Yearning for players, scrums and some rucking…

Knowing that one day stands will be filled

With fans cheering the Eagles, the team Rugby America built.

 

So from Mumscrum to you, may this season be bright;

Bringing peace, joy and love to all this holy night.

Many blessings we give that we call ourselves one,

Part of the Rugby America family, second to none.

 

Merry Christmas!