Thank you, rugby.
I knew it was bad when I heard a “crack”. What made me even more upset was the fact that I had prom the day before. It was a Friday night high school rugby game in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was having a great game until I broke my nose after laying out a kid. Don’t get me wrong, even after breaking my nose, I firmly believe that rugby is one of the best activities ever created. The sport incorporates physical play, mental toughness, and team unity. Especially for high school students, the sport develops the naive boy into a knowledgable man. Every play goes further than tackling a man with a different colored jersey. Rather, you tackle that person because there are fourteen other guys relying on you to do so. You lay out your body for them because they would do the same for you. One of the keystone moments in my rugby career has to be the huddle prior to each game. The starters would make a circle and grab each other’s shoulders. The captain would step into the middle of the circle and say the words, “no fear”. Shortly after, the other fourteen boys would repeat the phrase. Then again, again, and again. Every time the chant got louder and louder until everyone is yelling “No fear!” at the top of their lungs. This phenomenon isn’t just a chant; it was the anthem that got me mentally prepared to play every game.
Obviously, the game would not go as smoothly as it does if it wasn’t for the coaches. I remember the first time Coach Dillon was trying to teach me how to properly execute a rugby tackle. “Cheek to cheek!” he would scream. The idea was for the tackler to get so low that his cheek would be lined up next to the opponent’s butt cheek. Soon after, it would be easy to wrap my arms around the opponent’s legs and take him out. Another element that I came to appreciate of Coach Dillon’s coaching was what we did post-game. If we won, we would eat pizza to celebrate. If we lost, we would run up and down a hill until he decided it was “enough”. The post-loss running seemed like hell during, but made me thirstier to win next game so I wouldn't have to it again.
Even though some of the difficult days at practice or hard hits during a game made me want to quit at times, I’m glad I didn’t. I developed great relationships through to the sport and I was disciplined far more than I could have ever imagined.