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!

The Rugby Social!

At my first rugby match, I saw grills going, burgers and brats being prepared, and I thought, “Wow!”  I have hit the jackpot and discovered the sport with the best concession stand!  Ooops… at the next match, I discovered my mistake:  the food was for the players, coaches and referees, not the fans.  A quick trip to McDonald’s solved my food problem for my girls.

One of the best things about rugby is that after the match, no matter how hard it was or who won, the home team hosts a “social”.  They provide drinks, snacks, food, etc. to both teams, home and guest.  Following proper etiquette, the guest team is served first.

Parents new to rugby might be overwhelmed by this thought of having to prepare food for perhaps as many as 90-100 people on an evening or weekend day.  Some parents sign up for rugby and have no idea there is something called a social.  For parents who are new, it is the job of the coaches and veteran parents to teach the newbies about the peripheral aspects of the sport.

Here is our very simple setup for drinks and light snacks after our playoff match.

Here is our very simple setup for drinks and light snacks after our playoff match.

For a social, our team provides drinks; a “main” course – hotdogs, sub sandwiches, etc.; fruit – bananas (great for after rugby matches), oranges/Clementines, grapes, apples, watermelon; veggies – carrots; protein bars of some sort; and, of course, cookies.  After a tough match on the pitch, these kids deserve a cookie!

We’ve found that cutting bananas in half makes them much more appealing.  I don’t know why, but an entire banana is somehow intimidating!  Coring and cutting apples also helps – they’re easier to eat and more appealing (again, not an entire apple, lol); if you have oranges, cutting those also helps.  After the kids fill their plates and find a seat, we often go around with our extra fruit and encourage them to take more :).

Our boys coach this year came up with a brilliant idea:  each home game is assigned 1-2 Food Coordinators who are responsible for deciding the main course, and compiling an email to send to all the parents requesting the sides.  Our parents have truly stepped up and we have had absolutely no problem fulfilling these needs.  Each home game also has 3-4 Food Helpers who assist the Food Coordinators helping to prepare the tables with the food, getting the drinks and fruit ready, and making sure the main course is ready to go on time.  The Food Coordinators generally check with the coaches of the teams to find out when they would like their first match players to eat, usually after the first match for players that have played, but that could be different for some coaches.

Another mom and I met this year for our girls team and came up with the “Master Rugby Food Tub” – if we tried, we could probably come up with another name for this, lol!  Here’s what we decided should go in it, as well as things you should have at every home game:

Paper plates, napkins, wet wipes (for dirty rugby hands) and maybe hand sanitizer – if I am in the food line, I don’t let kids take a plate until they take a wipe!  The girls LOVE the wipes, and most of the boys, but not surprisingly, they are more apt to insist they don’t need one.  I think otherwise. 🙂

Paper towels, couple of dry towels (for rainy days), plastic knives/forks/spoons – you never know

Cutting board/knife, cheap plastic serving bowls, plastic tablecloths, trash bags (4 large per game)

Tongs and plastic scoopers (i.e., for little things like Chex Mix or Goldfish)

In addition, for each home match, you will need tables and possibly a tent, especially if there is a chance of rain.  Think “camping” when you prepare for these socials, and you’ll be fine!

The best part of the social is that the kids get an opportunity to have fellowship after a tough rugby match.  Rugby is physical, and it’s such a joy to see them talking with each other, often kids from different teams, after the game.  Parents also mingle, and this past Sunday, after a very tough playoff loss for our girls, our girls’ parents had the pleasure of meeting a father from the opposing school whose daughter had just been confirmed in the morning at church.  He was new to rugby, and was truly enjoying all aspects of it.  I got to chat with a friend in the sport, even got a hug from him as he was on the sidelines, coaching his team (our opponent) AND touch judging at the same time (more on touch judging later).

That, my friends, is the beauty and blessing of this sport!