Do you have what it takes?

The reaction many get when telling others about being a rugby player is truly fascinating.

A lot of people have the right amount of knowledge of rugby, but what can set one apart is their view of rugby.

People know that rugby is very intense, there is no padding and it is full on contact sport. All of this is true, however many have the wrong concept from where it actually originated. If I walk down the street and ask someone to describe rugby it is certain, unless they are part of the Discourse, that they will reply “It is kind of like football, right?”. However, they are wrong. Rugby actually originated from soccer at Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, UK when Webb Ellis picked up the ball in a soccer game (Rugby School). Since then, rugby has evolved into what is nowadays categorized as Rugby Union and Rugby League.

The University of New England’s Rugby team follows under the Rugby Union category, but many just call it rugby.

The Discourse of being a rugby player strongly portrays Gee’s Seven Building Tasks Fiano explains in her paper which are significance, practices, identities, relationships, politics, connection and sign systems and knowledge. My artifacts “10 Reasons why rugby is the greatest sport ever!”, “Haka Tour Blogs” and “World Rugby Laws” will help me demonstrate how the seven building tasks tie into my Discourse and how they make being a rugby player a Discourse.

I am currently a part of the Discourse of being a rugby player because I am on the UNE rugby team.

Me (#2) passing the ball in at a line out in a UNE Rugby game

As Gee describes Discourses he says that they “are ways of being in the world; they are forms of life which integrate words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes, and social identities as well as gestures, glances, body positions, and clothes” (6–7). Gee acknowledges that only a mixture of words, actions, values, beliefs etc. can help an individual enter a Discourse because none can stand alone. As the artifact, 10 Reasons Why Rugby is the Greatest Sport Ever describes comprehending the meaning of the importance of the fans, the respect, the hits, the flair, the physicality, the all inclusive aspect, the camaraderie, the haka and the passion of the sport and the memories it creates help an individual become part of the Discourse. If Gee were to describe Rugby he would categorize it as a non-dominant Discourse because it

“brings solidarity with a particular social network, but not wider status and social goods in the society at large” (8).

The difference between non-dominant and dominant is how much social benefits it brings. In my experience Rugby has not brought me a higher social standing or more money but it has helped me grow as an individual. Unlike other sports i have played, it “embraces a number of social and emotional concepts such as courage, loyalty, sportsmanship, discipline and teamwork” (World Rugby Laws).

To enter the Discourse of a rugby player one has to familiarize themselves with the terminology which can then help understand the laws, regulations, skills and plays of the game.

Sign system, one of the seven building tasks introduced by Fiano, shows that it is crucial for one to understand and know terminology to be part of the Discourse. Gee emphasizes that

“At any moment we are using language we must say or write the right thing in the right way while playing the right social role and (appearing) to hold the right values, beliefs, and attitudes.”

With this in mind, we can understand that terminology is fundamental for each and every member of rugby. However, it is important to understand that language will not help set one into a Discourse and especially not this one. For example knowing that cleats are called boots, or that when one scores it is not called a touchdown but a try does not categorize an individual as part of the Discourse. What will actually help is the saying doing combination that Gee talks about because practice is an important part of the sport. This concepts not only sets one into the Discourse but could eventually help the person master it.

As for any sport, rugby has certain rules and regulations one has to follow.

These help a player recognize the meaning for each play and skill learned or currently being learned. The artifact of the World Rugby Laws can help a non member understand some simple rules of rugby. For example “Every time the head or the neck is deliberately grabbed or choked, the offending player runs the risk of receiving a yellow or red card. Cleanouts around the neck must be penalised”.

Dave Hunt/European Pressphoto Agency

This rule ensures the safety of the players and it helps others understand the dos and don’ts during a game. Many players however, as the game starts to progress, do not follow this rule. This idea emphasizes Fiano’s building task of politics which talks about the perspective on social goods and in this case the appropriate way to tackle. To enter the Discourse one has to understand that depending on the type of team one versus, the score and how the game is going the individual can change the way they play but still keep in mind the right values. Saying-doing and saying-valuing combinations Gee discusses help a non member understand that playing a sport such as rugby does not only require to know and understand rules but to also obtain skills and plays.

Teaching plays and core skills help each player understand and master their position in order to be part of the Discourse.

Significance and identity two of the Fiano’s seven building tasks portray how crucial it is to know the practices and the meaning of each player. An example that comes to mind is seen when talking about a pass. All players, no matter the position they play, need to know the basics of a pass. There are many types of passes such as “Basic, long, long clearing pass, longer basic, short, emergency, one- handed, special, over-head, surrounded, change direction pass, no-pass, cut out and experiment” (Rugby How). These types of passes differ during the game based on the play, the player’s position and the situation. This makes passes an important factor to the game.The concept correlates with the players because each position describes the different player and give each a different identity.

In rugby certain positions are distinguished only by the number one wears. Wearing a numbers and putting on a jersey, however, is not as easy as it sounds because each player has to earn and understand their number. In the game there are fifteen players, eight forwards and seven backs. Most times during a game when a player is switched out, depending on the situation, the new player gets their jersey. This can be seen as what Gee calls an “identity kit. Gee says

“A Discourse is a sort of ‘identity kit’ which comes complete with the appropriate costume and instructions on how to act, talk, …so as to take on a particular role that others will recognize” (p. 7)

Players switch identity kits when they switch their jerseys. The coach gives each player their position and number by selecting the player the day before the game, but during the game one needs to embrace and become the position they are called on to be. Doing what the coach says and understanding the different positions and roles help an individual integrate themselves into the Discourse of being a rugby player. This idea also reflects on a team’s traditions and passion.

Traditions and passion are the one thing that set teams aside from one another.

These can be described by Fiano as practices and connections because of the way they make each member of a rugby team part of the Discourse. Traditions help establish a bond between players and coaches as well. This is one of the reasons why unity, is key in rugby. For many teams the Haka, chants performed before every game are a “way for communities to come together…a symbol for community and strength” (Haka Tours Blog).

It is a traditions passed on to remember that unity and family is a big part of being a rugby player by the way they move and the words they say. This concept also ties with passion. As the World Rugby Laws states

“Rugby people have a passionate enthusiasm for the Game. Rugby generates excitement, emotional attachment and a sense of belonging to the global Rugby family”

This idea emphasizes how one needs to feel a strong bond between each player and understand the true meaning of a team. As Gee says one can become an apprentice of a Discourse, in this case a newcomer would have to learn the team’s traditions and feel the passion the sport brings. Newcomers would be noticed right away if they weren’t to partake in the traditions and feel passionate and they may even be cast out of the Discourse.

In conclusion, terminology, rules and regulations, teaching plays and core skills, positions and numbers, and traditions and passion can in fact set one into the Discourse of being a rugby player. Fiano’s seven building tasks help recognize these correlations and connect Gee’s main idea of what a Discourse is and how to enter one. To enter the Discourse of being a rugby player one needs to not only understand and act, but feel the true meaning of being part of a team, especially for a team that relies so much on unity and family.

As coach says “It’s not where you start, it’s where you end” and I ended being a UNE Rugby player. I truly believe that rugby chose me. So, not everyone can be considered a rugger, not everyone can enter the life of a rugger.