Spring in Indiana means we Hoosiers come out of the basketball arenas and yearn for the roar of engines at 16th and Georgetown. We dust off our mitts and bats, clean up our bicycles, buy fresh tennis balls, and … grab a rugby ball and run off to the pitch! ?? What? Rugby in Indiana? More and more, yes! A state known for basketball and race cars is also making a mark for itself with the unique sport of rugby. A longtime favorite of Europe, South Africa, Australia, and other nations, rugby is a fairly new spectator sport in the U.S. and is making waves in my great state of Indiana.
While most American probably view rugby as “football without pads”, it really is more and less of that at the same time. Rugby tackling is different than football tackling; it’s non-stop, more like soccer or hockey; and anyone can run with the ball. Rugby is a running, standing, gentlemen’s game with intricate rules (just ask a referee to explain “Advantage”). The essential rules you need to know to avoid the “deer in the headlights” look common to new rugby fans are these:
Players pass the ball backwards – no forward passes are allowed
Players may kick the ball forward at any time
Players earn a “Try” by placing the ball on the ground past the goal line, and a Try is worth 5 points.
Extra point kicks after a Try are worth 2 points; and if you ever see a team just kick the ball through the goal posts without having scored a Try, that’s 3 points.
Most rugby pitches do not have scoreboards, and today I learned that our team scored kind of in the fashion of the wave you see at stadiums – our coaches clapped, our kids clapped, then it spread over to the parents and we clapped! It is a challenge to keep up with the score with the lack of a scoreboard and the unusual scoring system!
If you get a chance, check out http://www.rugbyindiana.com, and find a local rugby match near you. With over 30 high schools offering Club Rugby, you have a shot at finding a match nearby. Also up and coming are high school girls teams (we have 12 in Indiana) and youth teams, both tackle and non-tackle. Non-tackle youth rugby, according to Rugby Indiana, has grown over 200%!
If you or someone you know has played rugby, offer to help a local club, learn how to become a referee, or better yet, help to start a team! Your expertise and knowledge are needed and greatly appreciated!