I, unlike many of my teammates, started playing rugby – a little later in my teen years. I started playing when I was in the 11th grade, because at the time, the former high school rugby coach had left and my school took on a new coach. This new coach, was keen on me and took conditioning less seriously than the past coach, which was, in all honesty, the actual reason why I gave rugby a shot. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to play again in grade 12, that year I became the team’s forward captain. I liked it so much that I even joined my university team, I even became the club manager. But never did I expect to like it that much. At first, it was just an activity or something to do. I never realized that it would be something that helped define my life for years to come. And here I am, seven years removed from the 11th grade, telling you about what I have learned from playing this sport.
You don’t have to like everyone that you play with
I have played 5 seasons of uni rugby and between those years, I have played 3 years of grassroots/club rugby. This means that I have had many teammates throughout the years. I get along with most of them, in fact, I really enjoy most of them. However, it has not always been copacetic. I have had some teammates who rubbed me the wrong way. But, at the end of the day, you and your…rival? Let’s call it a rival – are there for the same reason, to play the game. And even if you have to deal with a mean cunt every once in awhile, that is just the nature of life, not only rugby. Sometimes in your professional work life, you will have to work with someone you hate. With rugby though, you can work with someone you dislike but still do what you love – not a bad trade off. It’s all about focusing on yourself and the good things. It’s about brushing the little worries off your shoulder, to keep you afloat.
It will humble you
I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve had teammates who have played at the professional and national level. That is pretty cool. And no matter how good I am, or can be, I cannot be as good as them. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t work harder than them, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the game as much as them. All it means is that they are better than you at something. Being a better teammate is just as important as being able to run the length of the field very fast or have a killer one rep max.
No matter how good you are at rugby, there will always be someone better. If you remember that, you will remind yourself to keep working hard and to focus on your task at hand. Your real competition should be with yourself, to beat the you of the past. That aside, you will injure yourself, you will play poor games, and your coaches will make decisions that you do not agree with – all these things whether fair or not, are just lessons to yourself that the world does not revolve around you. Your attitude towards the process is what will define your experience with the game.
Community is everything
This game is more than just a game. This game is a culture, that is unlike any other in the world. How many other sports include: bashing your opposition for 80 minutes, shaking their hands after the game, then buying them a beer? What about having an old boy from the club, who you have never talked to before, giving you a pat on the back because he just saw you play your heart out for the club, that he used to represent so passionately. This is my favourite part of the game. As a guy who does not play very much, this part of the game is what drove me these past few years to stick with the game. The camaraderie, the socials, the ability to represent something bigger than yourself – all reasons to why I love this game. I was lucky enough to play for a university team that gave back to the world outside of rugby and to the athletic community at our school (through throwing totally sick and radical parties, my guy). And being able to represent your club in a positive manner is so cool. Enrich your community, enrich yourself
I’ve never had a girlfriend, or a committed relationship (I’m revealing too much), or even seriously – like seriously for real, considered getting one when I was playing rugby. I always made the joke that I was in a relationship with the team. Having a bad day? Take it out in practice. Something on your mind? Chat up one of your mates. Need a pick me up? Make plans with your teammates after the game on Saturday. This game has given me so much purpose in life that I know that without it, I know I would have less friends, less happiness, and less memories. At the end of the day, it’s all about those precious memories you have with your friends. And it just so happens that this game, is just a vessel in which you can be part of an activity, part of a culture, and part of a community. I have gone through the emotional gauntlet with this game. I have had the highest highs and the lowest lows, but I have learned from all those experiences. I would get so drunk when we won a playoff game and when I played my last uni game, I cried more than I had ever cried in my life. I learned that for me and for many others that play the sport, that rugby has given us a greater capacity to love. And I promise you that if you love rugby with all your heart and that you do it the right way, the honest way – the way where you put others in front of yourself, rugby will love you back. I promise you, that this sport will love you back.