Rugby is the fastest growing sport in North America and this year, it has reached SJHHS.
The San Juan Stallion Rugby Club is not only a club here on campus but also an actual sports team that is competing against other high schools, like Dana Hills and San Clemente.
The school club was founded by SJHHS senior, Jake Paxton, who played for San Clemente’s team last year. Advised by Mr. Spiers, a lifelong rugby fan, they meet on Thursdays to watch rugby clips and discuss the upcoming season.
“At [our] first meeting we had about 35 boys and a few girls turn up to learn about the game. Now, we have at least 20 players registered to play in the coming season,” said Coach Mark Pattinson, who helps coach the team and played rugby through high school and college.
This holds true, since at their most recent practice, the team had 23 players join in, run drills, and work as a team, and they’re hoping to grow that number at each successive practice. Happily the ranks have grown, but Spiers still wishes there were more.
“If we had 30 boys, we would have enough to have full out scrimmages against ourselves in practice, maybe even make a novice team,” said Spiers.
Luckily, the club is still accepting registration through Thanksgiving. Paxton invites all students to come down and watch a practice. Students may be surprised at what they find and come away as a fan or player. Practices are held from 3:00 – 4:45 on Tuesdays and Thursdays at SJHHS.
Coach Mike Lewis advises students not to be daunted by what they might see. “Rugby’s not a complicated game,” he said. “It’s just weird.”
When they say anyone can join the club, they literally mean anyone. At the most recent practice there were 10 players who had never touched a rugby ball before but were working with veterans, like Paxton, to learn and grow as players. The atmosphere is welcoming to veterans and newcomers alike.
Many commented on how quickly you can pick up the game, a hybrid of soccer and football, as described by some.
“Our first game is on Saturday, December 3rd against Dana and San Clemente, but with how hard these boys have been working, I’m confident everyone is going to play and totally dominate on the field,” said Lewis.
Most of the team is made up of athletes from other sports, especially football, whose season just ended and is similar enough to rugby for many players to adapt fairly easily and appreciate the additional conditioning. Still, there are swimmers and lacrosse players sharing the field too, along with students not on other sports but eager to try something new.
“And don’t worry about expensive equipment,” said Pattinson. “The only piece of equipment you really need to play rugby is a mouth guard.”