Men’s rugby develops brotherhood through passing down love of game

The men's rugby club have started off strong this fall season, but look to improve as the season continues.  (Photo provided by Reid Adler)
The men’s rugby club have started off strong this fall season, but look to improve as the season continues. (Photo provided by Reid Adler)

With a 4-1 start to the fall season, the Oswego State men’s rugby club is looking to make a run at the playoffs yet again, which will be hosted at home on the Hidden Fields.

After a disappointing loss to Niagara College in the playoffs last fall, the Wizards are hoping to redeem themselves and compete for a championship this year.

“We’re just playing hard, and we hope to be in the playoffs, we hope to be champions, but we’re just taking it week by week,” said Kevin Burke, senior captain.

As with any other student-run organization, there are many challenges that come along with running the club rugby team. One of the main issues is that several new players join the team every season, whether they are freshmen or upperclassmen, and they typically know little to nothing about the sport of rugby.

“We’ve got a good 15 new guys this fall,” senior captain TJ Kimmel said. “And there’s a big learning curve because it’s a totally different game from any other game in America.”

Senior captain Kyle Kelly added that they usually do not have any trouble generating interest for new guys to join the team because they do a lot of recruiting on campus.

“At the involvement fair we try to get a decent amount of guys,” Vertucci said. “And just asking around or asking friends to come down and see if they get interested when they start practicing.”

In addition, the team tends to pick up even more new guys after the fall season ends because people have heard about the team more around campus and they are more familiar with the campus.

“Especially the freshmen, I know a lot of them come in the fall and they hear about it but they’re kind of still young and adjusting to college,” Vertucci said. “Then they’ll join in the spring because they’re more comfortable.”

This is what makes the leadership of the captains and other experienced members of the team so vital to the Wizards’ success. It is up to them to keep the team together and teach the new teammates the rules of the game since usually only one or two new guys know something about rugby.

“The leadership roles are huge for making the new guys feel comfortable,” Kimmel said. “Learning a new game isn’t an easy thing to do, so everyone has to support each other.”

However, according to Kimmel, the most challenging part about running a club team is being able to effectively coordinate everything that goes into creating the practice schedule and making sure that everyone is on the same page.

“The cooperation of the fields, SA, getting the school on the same page as the captains and the coach,” Kimmel said. “That’s always a little bit of a headache, but it’s worth it.”

The Oswego State men’s rugby team practices on the Hidden Fields on campus, but for the next year that area will be a little over crowded. With the construction of the outdoor turf facility on the hill above Romney Field House, many of the Oswego State varsity sports teams have been forced to practice out at the Hidden Fields as well. Up to this point in the fall season, however, the added commotion has not affected the men’s rugby team at all. According to the captains, nobody typically uses the field that they practice on and everybody minds their own business when they are out there.

While organizing a club team is a lot of work, there are plenty of positive experiences  that come with being part of a student-run organization.

“Just being able to come out five or six days a week and play sports with my friends is the best part,” Burke said. “We’re getting old so we can’t do that for too much longer.”

Kimmel added that the nature of competition and being part of a competitive league that allows them to play against other schools is his favorite part.

“Competing against other schools is just fun in general,” Kimmel said. “And all the other schools put just as much heart and effort into it as we do.”

Although the weather this fall in Oswego has been better than one might expect, it remains another challenge that the Wizards will face with once the winter months are upon them. As aggressive a sport as rugby is they are not the type to shy away from a little bit of rain or snow. Only when the snowfall gets heavy do they work with the school to reserve a time in the gym to hold practice.

“We’re always out here unless it’s thunder and lightning or snow, and then we still might be out here,” Burke said.

“Our season ends in November, but after winter break before the fields are ready to be played on we’ll get some time indoors at Swetman Gym,” Kimmel added. “But we have had a few winter snow practices.”

As the fall season is winding down, the Wizards have four games left to play, two of which will be played at home on the Hidden Fields. This week is their bye week, so they do not have a game this weekend and are afforded a little extra time to work on some things in practice to prepare for a strong finish to the season. The next game they play will be on Oct. 19, at Le Moyne College.

Oswego State will end its fall season with a big rivalry game at SUNY Cortland, who is undefeated at this point and is the only team to beat the Wizards so far this season.

In the spring, the season consists of a series of tournaments rather than games against individual teams. The time in each half is much shorter so it is possible up to five games can be played in a day at a tournament. This is a format that the Wizards have had a lot of success with in the past, so their expectations for the spring are just as high as they are now.

“We usually do really well in the spring and win a lot of tournaments,” Burke said. “We plan on winning every tournament we play.”