Photo by Kamryn Ford

After pandemic pause club rugby kicks off

Recently, screams and chants can be heard coming from Griswold Stadium late at night and early in the morning. If you listen close enough you might even be able to hear voices shouting “Ruck, Maul, Pillage and Burn” over and over again. Although it may seem like a cult, it is actually just the sounds of club rugby returning to Lewis & Clark. 

Rugby faced a handful of barriers this year that made their return seem unlikely. The club had trouble getting approved through Student Engagement, reserving field time, getting access to their equipment and accessing COVID-19 testing through LC for their coaches. Despite all of this, rugby is back again.

During a normal year, members of club rugby spend the fall semester teaching new players how to play the game. They then spend the spring semester going to tournaments and competing with other schools. Before the global pandemic there were also infamous rugby parties. Any veteraned rugby player can tell you about “shooting the boot,” a party game played to commemorate a player scoring their first ever “try,”, which is what they refer to points as. However, like many club sports at LC, rugby has had to adapt to new COVID-19 restrictions. 

Cate McGlynn-Mandel ’22, who has played rugby at LC for three years, has seen the team change under the pandemic. 

“It’s super different,” McGlynn-Mandel said. “We are of course wearing masks, sanitizing all our balls and equipment and everything. Making sure to be aware of distance while we are practicing. We aren’t playing games right now.”

Despite not being able to play any actual games, the members of the club have been able to practice passing, formation drills and touch rugby. In touch rugby, players do not tackle each other but instead touch their opponents using their hands on any part of the body, clothing or the ball. The lack of full contact rugby has made this a great time for people to try rugby if they are scared of being tackled. The team is always looking for new players of any experience level.

“Everyone is so friendly, so welcoming,” McGlynn-Mandel said. “It’s a really great group dynamic. Our coaches are awesome and super supportive of new people. You don’t have to be ‘traditionally athletic,’ rugby is really a sport for every body.”

Like many LC rugby players, first year Lidor Nadler ’24 joined the team without having played before.

“I’ve never seen a rugby game before I got here,” Nadler said. “I didn’t know anything about it.” 

She ended up appreciating it as a fun way to exercise and even recruited her roommate Kaya Tsbari ’24. Despite new precautions put in place, Nadler and Tsbari love the community rugby has built.

“It’s very inclusive,” Tsbari said. “During practice sometimes there are people on the track and we ask if they want to join us for practice, maybe join the team.”

Most players on the team speak highly about rugby’s inclusivity and approachability. Though rugby had previously only been open to women, the students have pushed the team to become coed in the last year. Currently the team consists of mostly women but it is becoming more diverse as time goes on. Students of all genders are now welcome to join practices. 

“The transition has been pretty seamless,” said Claire Lundy, coach of LC rugby. “The big part that would make it complicated would be the contact piece as, genetically speaking, people who are born and/or identified male tend to have stronger/faster bodies than people who are female born and/or identified. That isn’t always true, though.”

When rugby is able to play full contact again, Lundy predicts that practice will be split into three grids. The grids would be male only, all genders and female only and players can decide which grid or group to participate in.

One of the people who is benefiting from rugby’s decision to go coed is Daniel Pang ’24. Pang played rugby for 11 years before joining the LC team. Even with all his experience, Pang has felt welcomed and challenged on the LC team. He encourages all students to give rugby a chance and promises that “you’ll fall in love with it.” 

He also has lots of tips for first time players. 

“Listen, learn, just do your best, don’t get down on yourself,” Pang said. “Everyone starts from somewhere. You have absolutely nothing to fear.”

If you are interested in joining rugby, their practices are open on Griswold field from 8:4-10 a.m. on Sundays and 8-10 p.m. on Tuesdays. You can email the team at wrugby@lclark.edu.

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