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!

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!

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.

Life Lessons in Losing

I really dislike the word “lose”, especially in the world of rugby. I have a hard time saying that a group of boys or girls who play their hearts out on the pitch, diving for tackles and balls and sprinting faster than they thought possible, are losers. Maybe with the score. But not in life. And this week has been a week of winning in life while being on the losing end of the score.

It’s state championship time in Indiana, as it is in many states, and our school had both its boy and girl clubs involved in very competitive playoff matches. Our Varsity and Junior Varsity boys traveled a long distance to play tough teams, and lost hard fought matches. The Varsity score didn’t match the heart and sweat left on the field, but it was inversely proportional to the anguish felt by each of the boys after the game. The Junior Varsity game was a close contest, with both teams going back and forth down the field. Our girls also lost a very competitive match, trying so hard and playing with such intensity. It was a week of hugs given to allay the sadness of defeat.

But here’s where we found the winning parts of life….we found it in the Varsity guys who cheered on their JV teammates during their match. Defeated, tired, and hungry, they could have sulked off to a corner of the field to nurse their wounds. Instead, they showed character and commitment to their team – standing on the sidelines, shouting instructions almost louder than our coach. They cheered the proverbial school initials, clapping in rhythm as one. When the play stopped and there was an opportunity for a water break, juniors and seniors took the cue and ran with water as though their lives depended on it. One of our guys was a Touch Judge for the JV game. It was one of the most emotional, loudest games we’ve had in a long time!

We found it in our girls….our girls team had a good shot at going to the state championship semifinals, and possibly even winning. It wasn’t meant to be. There were tears afterward as the team and coaches gathered together, and wonderful words of thanks and encouragement were shared by all. The coaches had tears, the players had tears, and no one wanted the moment to end. The visiting team was jubilant in victory! They were outnumbered by our team, but they didn’t play like it. And of course, at the end of the match we had our social. With admitted heavy hearts for some of us parents (we are human), we made sure the social was ready to go for all the girls. And they were great. After a time, the two teams came over to the tables of food, loaded their plates, and sat on the picnic tables for fellowship. Two opposing teams, who’d just played a hard-fought contest, able to sit together and share a meal. This is rugby.

We found it in an opponent’s father and his daughter….after our girls playoff match, a few of us parents were huddled together, trying to cheer each other up. A father of one of the girls on the opposing team found our group, and thanked us for the food. He said that his daughter had just been confirmed that morning, and they had hustled over to the game. This was her first year of rugby (and his!), and she loved it! He was beaming as he talked about how much she loved the sport; how could we not love this new member of our sport family? I saw him this weekend at our state tournament, and he was still smiling.

And we found it in another opposing parent, a mom who was putting on the social for our boys playoff match. As I walked slowly across the field, carrying a bag and shirt left behind, a few water bottles from the field, and my own purse and camera, this kind woman offered me a brownie. Bless her!!! Chocolate always helps! And we found it in two of our girl rugby players who attended the boys match, as they willingly gathered all the used water bottles on our side and disposed of them properly.

As I watched the girls teams play in the state tournament today, I found myself pulling for all of them. Three excellent matches, three teams on the losing end at some point, with one team winning it all. At the end of the final match, the runners-up were lined up on the field, and the champions lined up right next to them creating a long line of ruggers. A girl from the championship team lined up next to a runner-up team member, and put her arm around her fellow rugger. A member of the state runner-up team was awarded the Most Valuable Player award, and she cried. Her teammates were so happy for her, they forgot their sad tears and ran to their honored teammate for a giant hugging celebration. And the winning team? Another giant hugging celebration and tears of joy! Three score losers, one score winner, and four winners in life.

It was a good rugby day.

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!