Being very bad at something is a peculiar feeling; and I am very bad at rugby indeed.
The Summer before my first semester at Bates, my mother was called by a current Bates parent and welcomed to the Bobcat family. Somewhere in the conversation, the parent disclosed that her son was on the rugby team, and recommended to my mother that I give it a shot. My mother simply laughed. There was nothing to her that seemed less likely than me, on a rugby pitch, throwing and catching and tackling and being tackled.
When my mother told me about this conversation, thinking it funny that rugby had even been suggested, I laughed along nervously. What my mother didn’t know is I’d already had a brief exchange over email with the current rugby captain over possibly giving it a try. At the time, I was playing ice hockey, and anticipated joining the club team in the Fall. It seemed to me that another club sport, maybe Rugby or Water Polo, would be a great way to stay in shape for hockey.
My first week on campus, I almost skipped the first rugby practice of the year. I was far too nervous to consider giving something like this a shot. But Adam, my first friend at Bates, was adamant I give rugby a try, and so I showed up, awkwardly tossed the ball around, and tried to wrap my head around lines for an afternoon. Afterwards, I felt too awkward to quit. And so the most significant experience of my freshman year began.
I didn’t know much about rugby going in. All I knew was that I was not the prototypical rugby player. I’m not athletic, nor aggressive; I am neither neurotypical nor heterosexual. I have often doubted my place within the team, and I have spent many a night agonizing over whether or not I truly belong. I have never seen these doubts reflected in my teammates. From the very beginning, they’ve been committed to treating me as an equal and essential part of the team. I may not be the most in-demand player when it comes time to play the game or even run some drills, but I am not valued any less. My teammates have taken my quirks and my faults and ran with them, never once stopping to ask me why I was different.
I’m still very bad at rugby. To the outside observer, it still seems I am brand new to the game despite having been playing for two-ish years. Freshman year, I fought this fact by helping out every way I could and attending almost every practice. Sophomore year, I let my doubts consume me, missing practices and events because I couldn’t stop replaying that embarrassing screw-up from the last game of touch I’d participated in. I don’t know what the future holds for me. My hope is to play one game on the pitch, wearing the Bates jersey, before my time with the team comes to an end. Regardless, the importance of rugby to my time at Bates cannot be understated.
Rugby has pushed me in ways I never could’ve imagined. It gave me a family on campus and a structure to my early days. It gave me so many friends who I couldn’t begin to name, such as Andrew and Pember, who always let me hang out with them at rugby events, Erik, who’s offered me advice on everything from rugby to filmmaking, Bilski, who generously lends his car whenever somebody needs it, George, Carlson, Keystone, Tim, Tom, the list goes on and on.
I could share so many stories and mistakes, successes and failures, but I’ll err on the side of brevity. I deeply appreciate the time I’ve spent with Bates Rugby Football Club, and I thank my teammates and coaches for all of their understanding and support. If you have the chance to support BRFC, I urge you to consider it, and if you have the chance to try rugby, I’d recommend you give it a go. Even if the sport doesn’t click for you, the community might just make you stick around.