Rugby Talk with Indiana’s New Rugby Development Officer

Most of the people I know involved in rugby do what they do because they are so passionate about the sport.  They love the culture, and want to be ambassadors for the sport in any way they can.  This holds true for the new Rugby Development Officer for Rugby Indiana, Sam DiFilippo.  I thought it would be fun to talk rugby with Sam, someone who’s grown up with the game, seen it from many angles, and wants to grow the sport as much as me (probably more!).

Karen:  Congratulations on becoming the new Rugby Indiana RDO!  You’ve been involved with rugby nearly your entire life – just how long would that be?

Sam:  I’ve been around rugby my whole life.  My dad played and introduced me to the game.  He started playing in the mid-70’s for the Fort Wayne Rugby Club. I spent a lot of Saturdays at Franke Park growing up watching games.  I started playing in 2001.

Karen:  How excited are you about your new role with Rugby Indiana, and what do you hope to accomplish?

Sam:  I couldn’t be more delighted with my new position.  This is a rare career opportunity to do what I love for a living.  My hope here is to add to Rugby Indiana’s fine reputation.  I hope to help get more teams started in areas of the state that do not have rugby yet.  I’d like to help get rugby into more Phys. Ed. classes, and give more middle school students a chance to play rugby.

Karen:  When you tell someone you’ve never met, who doesn’t know of your passion for rugby, that you work for Rugby Indiana, what is their first response?  And I’m going to guess (maybe incorrectly) ahead of time what it is – how do you counter it?

Sam:  Rugby is one of those sports that many people have heard of, but they have never experienced.  Most people you meet ask questions about how the game is played, they may have known someone who played, or they have seen it on TV.  I always make sure that they know that rugby is being played in the area and where the teams are located.  When they ask about injuries, I try to explain that the rules and coaching revolve around safety.  I’m usually deferential when talking to people about rugby.  Once I talked about rugby to a guy who was making my sandwich (I was in my coaching gear), and when I handed him my card, he said, “Oh, like you’re THE rugby guy in Fort Wayne.”  I like to promote the game, not my knowledge of the sport.

Karen:  And I have to chuckle – THE rugby guy in Fort Wayne!  I like to promote the game, too.  My knowledge of actual plays/strategy/etc., however, could fit in a small jar.  My love for rugby is immense, though.  What about rugby intrigues you the most?

Sam:  When I see how much rugby is a part of life in Europe and the southern hemisphere, it blows my mind.  In the US, we have the NFL, and you get the same amount of excitement, but the value of sport I just think has been lost when you go from youth football to the pros.  Rugby has less commercialization, which can hurt it to a point, but I still think that if you want to introduce modesty into an athlete, you should introduce them to rugby.  I guess it’s just a culture thing.

Karen:  I totally agree about the modesty thing.  The culture of rugby is much more team-oriented, to me.  My goal is to get rugby here to that same level of popularity that it enjoys in Europe and elsewhere.  For better or worse, and I’m chuckling, now some people immediately think “Rugby!” when they see me, like our principal at the high school open house the other night.  🙂

Karen:  You’ve been a player, a coach, and a coaching instructor, in addition to your newest position as Rugby Indiana’s RDO.  I look at rugby and its development in our country sort of as a 3-legged table – we need players, coaches and refs, all supporting each other; one cannot grow without the other.  Can you give me some of your thoughts, having been involved with the sport in these different areas, on how we can increase any and/or all of these 3 areas?  Where do we have bottlenecks?

Sam:  I agree, these groups need each one for their own success.  The bottleneck, I believe, comes with training and quality control.  USA Rugby has taken major strides to improve coach education, and I believe we will start seeing the impact of the new system in 2014.  Better coaches make better players, better players stick around longer and bring their friends, too.  Good referees make a better game and that makes everyone happy.  Bottom line when it comes to rugby, we need all groups working together for the better of the game as a whole, and I’ve seen first-hand people that believe in that mission.

Karen:  One more thought…  Do you find that it’s getting easier to find referees since rugby now has been around for awhile?  I know the referees undergo training as well, and some of our referees in Indiana spend a lot of time with these efforts.

Sam:  Finding referees is not as easy as it looks.  We’ve been lucky in Indiana, but the need for more better-trained officials will not go away with the growth of the game.

Karen:  I would add that better coaches/players/referees also make better parents in that you’ll have more supportive parents, which is so important.  More supportive parents = more kids playing longer/younger = more rugby knowledge as they grow older.  It’s a win-win-win-win-win.

Karen:  As a coach, you deal with not only kids, but parents.  Can you give me some suggestions for new parents – what to expect, what is helpful, and what is the best thing a parent has ever done for you?  And these suggestions might be helpful for new coaches, too.

Sam:  As a coach, you need to understand that parents are the top stakeholders of your club.  Keep them informed the best you can and your life will be much better as a coach.  They can provide the stability your club needs to grow.  New parents need to look at rugby with an open mind, do your homework on the game, and research the club.  Have questions about what you don’t know, and talk to other parents who have players that have been on the club.  The best thing a parent has done for me has to be laundry and providing food after the game.  Rugby players get dirty and hungry, so when I can get help in those areas I am always grateful.

Karen:  “Rugby players get dirty and hungry…” – yes, they do!  And they seem to love it.  Those are really good suggestions for parents and anyone looking to play, really.  I love washing jerseys – makes me feel like I’m taking care of our kids. 🙂  How can parents and/or coaches get a team together?  What kind of certification is required?

Sam:  We have some great resources at www.rugbyindiana.com for parents and coaches looking to start a club.  USA Rugby (www.usarugby.org) provides the certification for all coaches.  If it’s a non-contact club, the certification is online.  If it is a contact team, one coach must attend a one-day training session.  It costs $65 a year to be certified as a coach, including a biennial background check and liability/accident insurance.  Also, touch judges can be trained online; we are always looking for good touch judges.  Or just contact me, and I’ll help you get started.

Karen:  I love how parents and fans can be active participants and helpers by being a Touch Judge.  If the coach doesn’t have anyone to help do this, then the coach ends up being a Touch Judge.  This doesn’t work well sometimes because it’s more difficult to coach – your concentration is divided.  Plus, at tournaments, I’ve seen coaches who’ve had to Touch Judge, and it’s hard to not coach in those situations where the Touch Judge needs to be completely and totally impartial.  Makes it tough to coach your team.

Karen:  If you could name one thing to grow the sport of rugby in the good ol’ USA, what would it be?  And conversely, what is holding back our sport, if anything, in your opinion?

Sam:  To grow the sport we need more players to come back to the game, but we also need to identify our best players sooner.  Who used to play that can give back as a referee or a coach?  Who is playing now that could be the next USA Eagle?  The things holding us back are fixable … the sport needs better marketing; it needs more friends that are connected with schools and varsity sports; it needs better venues; it needs better professional development; but these things are coming.  It takes time.  We will get there.

Karen:  I have a dream of a huge list of people that have played rugby in our state, and it just takes a little bit of the “Kevin Bacon game” (6 Degrees of Separation) to figure out who knows who.  I think part of getting the better venues and better positioning in schools goes along with people like me and you just talking about why we love the sport, and the great positives associated with it.  Would you agree?  I’d also love to see our young, high school players be given the opportunities to referee more elementary grade leagues, much like kids in baseball/softball/soccer are able to do.  That’s a win-win – rugby kids working, earning $, and learning more about the sport.

Sam:  The rugby world is a small world. I tend to agree with that a lot. Everyone knows someone who has played or has a friend who played. That’s the blessing and curse of our sport. We live and die by word-of-mouth marketing. The way things are going, however, with more exposure in the media and social networking, I think we will see a lot more organized rugby community in the future.

Karen:  Do you like 15s or 7s better?

Sam:  In person, I like to watch 15s.  On TV, I like 7s.  As a prop and coach, 15s is the best – 30 players going at the same time.  It’s great.

Karen:  Name your favorite team or rugby players…

Sam:  I enjoy watching Wales and All Blacks, they are just the top of the totem in rugby.  I liked Luke Gross and Jonah Lomu growing up.  Luke is from Decatur, IN and has 62 caps with the Eagles and is a great guy.  Luke came and talked to us at a tournament when I was in high school, and to me at that time it was like having Peyton Manning at a football camp.  Jonah Lomu’s comeback story is just inspiring.  Now I like to watch Todd Clever, Leigh Halfpenny, and any forward from the All Blacks.

Karen:  That is so great that Luke came back to the area and talked to all of you!  Of course, he’s a Hoosier so I think that’s great :).  I’d love to have him talk to our team!  I’ll have to learn more about Jonah Lomu, for sure.  The All Blacks are just inspiring to watch, and I’m just talking about the Haka!  Any chance our team can do a Haka??

Sam:  Until we get a player with Maori ancestry on the team, I don’t see a Haka in our future.  It’s certainly fun to play a game that is international.

Karen:  What has been your best experience with rugby, on both a high school/men’s team coaching level, and as a player?

Sam:  As a player, my best experience was winning a state championship my senior year and getting to be captain at Bishop Dwenger.  As a coach, our senior side went 8-0 in 2008.  However, the most rewarding experience is getting to watch my high school players grow to love the sport; I wish I could bottle up the excitement of some of my guys.  It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you see good high school rugby.  Some days I just love to watch.  I’m a fanboy at heart.

Karen:  Awww… That just warms my heart and makes me smile.  It’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Sam:  I wouldn’t put in the hours if it wasn’t worth it.  Thanks for doing this, Karen.

And thank you, Sam, and all of our coaches, referees, and administrators… from USA Rugby to our State Rugby Organizations to our high school/youth clubs to our adult clubs to our college clubs.  The hours that all of you put in allow someone like me, an ordinary parent, to enjoy this great, international sport through the participation of my kids.  Thank you!  

Rugby Responsibility

It’s been over a month now since the University of Delaware Rugby Club was placed on a 5-year probation, the result of a college party run amuck.  The Club has maintained that it had nothing to do with the party as an organization, and, according to a team member, “… it was caused by individuals acting on their own.” (Tyler Kingkade, The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/27/im-shmacked-udel-rugby-suspension_n_4002881.html)  The Club appealed the decision, and the appeal was denied.  The fall semester at Delaware rolls on, the student rugby players remaining continue going to class, and the rest of the rugby world gets to play on Saturdays.   So where does that leave the state of Rugby in the U.S.?

I should tell you I believe the Delaware Rugby Club officers, and hopefully they’re able to play rugby sooner than 2018. I can’t help but wonder if the disciplinary decision was made so severe … because it was rugby.  Is there a perception issue?  To me, these few players responsible for the demise of their entire team are no different from other athletes who break the rules.  Generally, it seems that those players are dealt with on an individual basis by the NCAA or other governing body; very rarely is the “death penalty” invoked for an entire team.  That being said, what’s happened has provided rugby fans and players in the U.S. an opportunity to talk about the big picture, and what it means to be a rugby player today.

I’m a rugby fan because I’m the parent of two rugby players.  It’s how I learned about the sport.  So, my initial reaction to the U of D debacle was not a good one.  I wrote to a friend, “I’m talking to people, trying to tell them what a great sport this is… and then I see an article like this. I know the majority of our players are not making these bad decisions, but it doesn’t make it an easier sell for a mom talking to other moms.”  And rest assured, the overwhelming majority of rugby people I’ve met are outstanding individuals, and I count myself lucky to know them and be included in the rugby community.

I’m a typical parent. When my son was younger, I drove him to practice; I’m still driving my younger two kids to practices.  I sign off on all the forms; I take the kids to get their physicals.  I make sure their clothes are washed, and that Gatorade is in the bag.  As every parent knows, it’s a fairly tough juggling act at times.  When the kids wanted to play rugby, it was ME that had to be convinced to let them be involved in a sport I’d first heard about in a song at college (and not in a good way).   Let’s be honest here – rugby players, at least back in the day, had a certain reputation.

Here’s a quick example of what we rugby fans face:  A few years ago, a couple of high school ruggers were helping set up for our first Rugby Indiana auction (they were super helpful and super nice).  One of them told me a story about a woman he met while he was working his job at a pizza place.  Through the course of conversation as she was waiting for her pizza, he told her he played rugby.  She assumed he was in college, and voiced her assumption that he must party as a rugby player.  He quickly set her straight.  I told this group of boys, “If you don’t want people to have that assumption of rugby players, then you need to remember that and act appropriately.  You represent not just yourself, but your club and your school.”  They were solemn for a moment, looked at me, and one spoke for the group and said, “You’re right.”

Now it’s 2013, and this once foreign sport is making headway not only in this family, but also in schools and communities across the country.  We’re not where soccer is yet, but it’s my hope that we get there.  Where contact sports is concerned, we’re a football country.  It’s hard enough to find a field suitable for a pitch sometimes or convince coaches of other sports that rugby is a really good mutually beneficial sport, let alone trying to convince people and parents that rugby is a sport worthy of being placed on their calendar, one that belongs to gentlemen and ladies.

So, along comes this incident at Delaware.  And I’m not naive enough to say that it doesn’t happen anywhere else.  It does.  Some incidents are well-known, and others are not.  But here’s the deal – and this applies to all rugby players, no matter the age: YOU ARE THE FACE OF RUGBY.  YOU represent not only yourself, but your club, your city or school, and the sport of rugby.  When you engage in conduct unbecoming that of a rugger, whether you like it or not, you represent all of rugby and you plant a seed in the head of prospective rugby moms that maybe this sport IS really like that rugby song you learned back in college.  Even if the conduct is an outlier, it has an exponential effect.

The fact of the matter is that growing the sport of rugby requires a few things, but mostly it involves increasing the number of players.  It’s a snowball effect – increase the number of middle school players, and you’ll have more high school players; increase the number of high school players, and your college and men’s/women’s team numbers will increase.  A bigger pool of players will help with our national teams.  New players are picked up along the way, for sure, but to build a solid foundation it helps to have players who’ve had rugby as part of their culture growing up.

I see a lot of folks really wanting the U.S. to have a competitive team in the Rugby World Cup, and I’m right there with you.  I want the Eagles to be more than competitive; I want them to win!  Who doesn’t??  AND I want the U.S. to HOST the Rugby World Cup.

But we don’t get there if we don’t have players.  And we don’t get there if we don’t have parents who AGREE TO LET THEIR KIDS PLAY.  Support our coaches who attempt to instill in their teams a culture of respect and responsibility; and support our players who do the right thing.  Be professional in your relationships with your teammates, coaches, fans, etc.  Be the gentlemen and ladies this sport was made for.

You can still have fun.  But do it knowing who you represent, and knowing what the end goal is:  more rugby players, more teams, and, eventually, more Gold.  🙂

Random Acts of Rugby PR

Rugby in the U.S. has many challenges shared by other sports – money, sponsorship, field availability, coaches, etc.  However, I think one of the largest challenges American rugby fans and players face is that we are not in Europe.  We haven’t lived with rugby as part of our norm, part of our culture.  Our kids throw baseballs and footballs, not rugby balls. My goal is to normalize rugby, make it part of our conversation, and make it something people want to watch and, better yet, play.  We can’t get lots of kids playing rugby if they or their parents have never heard of it, or if their parents don’t agree that it’s a good thing.  How do we do this on a limited rugby budget?  I practice what I call “Random Acts of Rugby PR” whenever and wherever I can.  I’m sure it probably annoys some people, but I don’t really care.

Rugby fans and players are among some of the most passionate of any sport I’ve witnessed.  All sports have fans, and some of those fans are enthusiastic.  But rugby has the most enthusiastic fan support overall.  THIS is our capital to spread the word of rugby.  Rugby fans and players are our best ambassadors to grow our sport and we don’t need a lot of money to do it.  We need lots of Random Acts of Rugby PR!

Here are some examples of how I do this on a daily basis:

Yesterday, my pool was filled.  The gentleman delivering the water and I were making conversation, and he asked what I did.  I responded, “I stay at home, volunteer at school and try to promote rugby as much as possible.”  I suggested he could play with our local men’s team, and then probably went into too much length about how he could catch matches on TV.  I don’t care; now he’s heard about rugby and knows it’s not some foreign sport.  It’s RIGHT HERE in Indiana.

On Facebook, I don’t post a lot, but I do repost a LOT of rugby pictures or news.  Probably too much, but again, I don’t care.  Guess who knows I like rugby and that it’s played here?  All my Facebook friends.

When I’m out and about, I sometimes will wear a Bishop Dwenger (our high school) rugby t-shirt, or a Rugby Indiana “Mom Squad” t-shirt.  Sometimes I have to break out the baseball hat and when I do, I try to wear my son’s Indiana University Rugby hat. Why?  Because it brings rugby up in conversation and puts the word in their heads.  I like to think I look fairly average. By this, I mean, you can clearly tell that I do not lift weights or run 5 miles a day.  I don’t play rugby, but I’m wearing the shirt, so it must be okay with me.  If one of my kids is with me, even better!  Hey, a mom who likes rugby!  It “must not be so bad”!

When I see our school principal, I invite him to watch our high school rugby team. In fact, when he sees me, he nearly always mentions rugby!  He knows that I’m the one who sends him our rugby schedule, who invites him to matches, and who has asked to have a match on our football field.  (I’m sure others have done these things, too, but maybe I’m the most persistent.)

Why say you need to pick up kids from practice, when you can say that you need to pick up kids from RUGBY practice?  Specifying rugby gets that word in there.  I’ve also been known to mention going to buy rugby shoes (instead of just “shoes”), etc.

Oh, and today at the Verizon Wireless store, I told Jake, the Verizon rep, that I needed NBC Universal Sports on any TV package they offered…. so I could watch rugby :).

How does this help?  Well, at a “power mom” coffee at my kids’ high school the other day, my friend who was leading the group pointed to a mom and said, “How about you getting the cross country team to have a table?”  Then, when she looked at me, she said, “And you could put a rugby table together.”  Bingo!!  All of this subtle mentioning of rugby has put the idea in non-rugby heads that this is something WE DO HERE.

Crazy?  Maybe.  But I don’t think so when my goal is for rugby to be introduced to every child in our country.  Give a child a rugby ball, teach them how to use it, teach them the rules of the game, and they’ll take it from there.  Kids love rugby.  It’s up to us to practice Random Acts of Rugby PR to ensure they get the chance to play it.

 

Rugby Lost and Found

Well, after a season of SNOW and RAIN, with 2 ruggers on 3 different teams – our son on his high school 15s team (Go Bishop Dwenger Saints!!) and a 7s team from Fishers (Go Sparta 7s!), and our daughter on her high school 15s team (Go Bishop Dwenger Lady Saints!!) – we have enjoyed a quiet July, with the interruption of a fun-filled day of rugby at one of the Midwest’s oldest tournaments, the 44th Annual 3Rivers Rugby Tournament!  The kids filled in off-and-on with touch rugby during June, and my son traveled with the 7s team.  At the end of May, while I was hoping to be done with washing rugby shorts and jerseys, long socks and searching for mouth guards for awhile, I was not and we enjoyed several more weeks of rugby.

So, in these past few weeks, we’ve accomplished a lot of non-rugby tasks.  We painted my daughter’s bedroom a very lovely rugby color, white with a SMIDGEON of magenta to make a pink color.  It looks beautiful!  My son had his wisdom teeth removed – all 4, all impacted – poor guy!!  It was good to have several days to not do anything physical to encourage proper healing.  We’ve traveled, we’ve been swimming, and right now we’re enjoying fall-like weather.  Which makes me think of rugby!

So walking around the house today, here’s what I found:

Lonely mouthguard

A sad, lonely mouth guard!!  The saddest part – I have no idea to whom this lovely mouth guard belongs!  Being a frugal rugby mom, do I toss it?  Do I re-sanitize it?  Do I save it for some unknown reason?  Hmmm… a mystery!  I think the saddest part of this is that this mouth guard has sat within reach for at least 7 weeks.  Time to move it along!

White Rugby Shorts

Ah, yes.  A lovely pair of white rugby shorts.  STILL sitting in the laundry room.  Why?  The last rugby match was at least 9 days ago.  But at least they are clean!

I spy rugby shoes!

I spy … 2 pairs of rugby shoes!  My daughter’s pair will not be worn for months, until the spring 15s season begins.  My son’s red rugby boots/cleats will never be worn again.  Here’s why:

Broken Rugby Shoe

Sigh.  Old red has met its match.  This poor shoe blew out in early June at a 7s tournament.  Yes, you read that correctly, early June.  But, they are a favorite pair, and thus my son has lovingly wrapped this shoe with duct tape (duct tape is good for so many things!) and was able to get at least 5 more days of rugby out of this great pair of shoes.  He usually wears striped socks as a scrumhalf, so with the striped navy-and-white socks and red shoes, I say he’s like Waldo out on the pitch.  It makes him easy to find.  We’ve GOT to replace these shoes this week, and I hope we find some good red ones.  🙂  Here’s a picture so you can see what I mean:

Matt, aka "Waldo"

So much easier to see these red shoes against the navy uniforms and green grass, and thus, find my son on the pitch!

And finally, here’s something I got from Santa in my stocking this year, and I finally put it where it belongs:

Rugby Mom

And that, my friends, is my favorite title.

Your Guide to Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013

Rugby World Cup Sevens June 28 – 30, Moscow, Russia

It’s hard to top the excitement and atmosphere of the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championships, recently held in Philadelphia, PA!  From the top college teams to their festive fans to the exciting high school boys and girls matches, it was a rugby-lover’s dream event.  So what next?  How about a weekend of even more sevens featuring the world’s best rugby sevens teams, including our own USA Eagles Men’s and Women’s teams!

This is the rugby event that will be in the Olympics in Rio in 2016, so this will be a good primer for those of us wanting to learn more about sevens rugby.  We’ll also be able to check out the competition from the other countries.  The matches will be very fast compared to 15s, and you may be surprised at the high scores.

As someone who is easily confused with time changes and channels, I’m grateful that USA Rugby has made it easy for us to follow this tournament.  By clicking on the this link, http://www.usarugby.org/rwc2013, you’ll find all kinds of information about the tournament, as well as ways to watch it online, via Universal Sports Network, or follow via Twitter and other social media.  Plus, there are opportunities to win signed Eagles jerseys!

Note:  Universal Sports Network is an NBC affiliate.  You can only view events online at http://www.universalsports.com/rugby/ if you currently subscribe to DishNetwork, DirectTV, Astound, BendBroadband, Hawaiian Telcom, and WAVE Broadband.  If you do not subscribe to any of these, you won’t be able to watch it.  However, I would encourage you to contact your cable/television provider to request Universal Sports Network!!  I did!

Collegiate Rugby Championship – A Rugby Celebration!

This past weekend I experienced my first ever Collegiate Rugby Championship in Philadelphia, PA! USA Sevens sponsors this exciting event, bringing together 20 of the best 7s collegiate teams in the country. In addition to the Men’s Collegiate Championship, there were several other events occurring throughout the weekend including the Women’s Collegiate Championship, the National Small College 7s Championship, High School Rugby Challenge, and US Military Memorial Cup. Whew! If you ever have the opportunity to attend, I highly recommend it. It was a herculean organizational effort, and many thanks go to USA Sevens, USA Rugby and Rugby PA.

View of CRC 7s play from my seat at PPL Park!

View of CRC 7s play from my seat at PPL Park!

It was a weekend full of colorful uniforms, valiant play, and people – lots and lots of rugby fans and players! It was just fun to turn to the person next to me and talk about rugby! I met many wonderful people who are just as passionate as me, working to expand the presence of rugby in ways big and small. It was also exciting for all of us to be surrounded by great college players, sometimes in the same elevator. The crowded elevators probably smelled better in the morning, before a hot day full of rugby matches. 🙂

My reason for being there, aside from just enjoying the entire spectacle, was to be a team manager/mom for my son’s 7s team that participated in the High School Rugby Challenge. That was truly the best part – being around this great group of kids. We all learned a lot together, from how to survive the heat in a big city we’d never been in before, to how to get our jerseys clean. Many thanks have to go to the staff at our hotel, the Sheraton Downtown Philadelphia, for helping with our jerseys and extra things we needed. They were awesome! I will not forget the kindness of them all.

As always, the character of rugby fans and players did not disappoint. Our pool play started Friday, and it was very hot – about 96 degrees. As I was struggling with a couple bags of fruit to take to my boys, a rugger from a team near Pittsburgh offered to help me. We talked on the way back to where my team had secured a piece of shade, and I asked him about rugby. He said that this was their first year of play, and he loved it. When I asked him what he liked best, he said hanging out with the teams after the matches. I smiled, because to me, this is the true spirit of rugby. Luckily, I saw his coach the next day and was able to share this young player’s act of chivalry.

As our team played their way to winning their pool and advancing to quarterfinal play on Saturday, something besides winning the matches made my heart melt. At the end of each match, our team presented a game ball to a player on the opposing team that they felt had played the best. It was a move that was appreciated by the other teams, and led to some good hand-shaking all around.

Between our 2nd and 3rd matches, one of these opposing coaches came over and spoke to our boys. What he said nearly made me cry. He first complimented all of the boys, encouraging them to play in college and on men’s teams, saying they were all worthy of that. He then said that our 7s coach was teaching rugby the right way, passing along to them the true spirit of rugby. After he spoke sincerely from his heart, he presented our coach with a game ball from their team. It was very touching.

In the midst of rugby being in the Olympics in 2016, a lot of preparation is being undertaken by USA Rugby and USA Sevens to find great rugby players in our nation to bring home a medal (and who does not want that??). But, it’s also good to remember that the number of future Olympians is dwarfed by the increasing number of kids playing youth rugby, whether starting in grade-, middle-, high-school or college. Whether an Olympian or an Olympic spectator, those kids are who will pass along the spirit of rugby. They will cheer loudly for our USA Eagles as they recruit friends for their high school team or share their passion for rugby with a newbie. And when the USA Eagles bring home an Olympic medal, our celebrations will be loud and prolonged! It will be a medal won by all of us who are passionate about rugby (whether for 4 years or 24 years), and believe that rugby is not just a sport. It is a way of life.

15s, 7s… What do these numbers mean??

First, you have to understand something: my father is a born and bred Hoosier. A basketball man, if you will, happy when the Hoosiers and Bulldogs win, and, strangely enough, a Green Bay Packers fan (I blame it on the year he was born.) Don’t get me wrong; he definitely cheers for the Colts! He is a Butler grad, and when Butler made it to the NCAA Final Four in 2010, my dad and I went to the national semifinal game together. We arrived at least an hour before everyone else, sat peacefully in our seats while he read a paperback book he’d brought, and I tried to soak it all in (I am a Hoosier after all, and thus a basketball fan). It was the game of our lives, and an experience I will never forget.

Rugby? It’s a five-letter word, a European sport that my son and daughter play, and we’re all desperately trying to understand. My parents try to make it to at least one match during the season, crazy Indiana weather permitting. And I try to answer questions to the best of my ability, my husband often providing a better, more detailed response than me. And we all go home after the match, one of us exhausted from actually playing the sport, the rest of us exhausted from concentrating so hard on what was happening on the field.

So, imagine my surprise when my father announced to me last Sunday that HE HAD WATCHED RUGBY ON TV! All by himself! And I hadn’t even told him about it! He said he’d watched rugby so that he could try to understand what it was, but it seemed different than the version he’d seen my kids play. We figured out that he had seen rugby 7s. We started to talk about what 7s was and how it was different from what he had previously seen. It’s probably one of the easier aspects of rugby, but to a person conditioned to 5-on-5 basketball and 11-man football teams on a consistent basis, it can be confusing to see terms like 15s, 7s and even 10s, all in one “season”.

And I figured, if my dad is watching this on television, trying to comprehend all this beautiful sport entails, I can only imagine that the rest of us parents are doing the same! Here is my attempt to simplify the mystery behind the numbers of rugby.

The form of rugby we know here in the states and as we have seen it played “across the pond” is 15s. I will admit freely to you that it took me a really long time to figure this out, but 15s means simply that there are 15 people on the field for each team. Football has 11 players; rugby has 15. This is the form of rugby with the spider-looking “scrum” – the tackle “thing” you often see where the players are huddled together with arms linked and heads down, the entire scrum resembling a living being, moving on its own accord. (What took me even longer to understand was that the imaginary line that splits the middle of the scrum, dividing the teams, is the scrimmage line. But a topic for another day!)

Sometimes, and I’m not sure why, on occasion, you will see a rugby match of 10s. This means, you guessed it, 10 players for each team on the field. I have never seen a 10s game live and in person, but I am aware that they exist!

Rugby 7s consists of two teams playing with 7 players on the field each. With only 7 players, not 15, using the same size field, you can imagine that this is a faster game. A rugby 7s match has 10-minute halves, much less than a rugby 15s game (note that the times for the halves can vary depending upon the age of the players). The players are constantly running/sprinting, and the scores can actually be quite high even with the shorter playing time. This is the rugby event you will see in the Olympics in 2016 in Rio!

Right now, the USA Eagles and Lady Eagles are active in 7s tournaments, while the USA Rugby College National Championships (15s) are just finishing up in the various divisions. Coming up in early June is the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship in Philadelphia, an invitational event that will comprise not only college teams, but a separate high school event as well. The USA Rugby College National Championships for Men’s and Women’s 7s is November 23-24, 2013. (Thank you to Tam Breckenridge of USA Rugby for clarifying!)

That doesn’t seem so confusing, does it?