Why rugby? A look into the club sport’s presence on the Hill

The St. Olaf club rugby team is a small club that competes in a niche sport. “A good tagline would be soccer with your hands,” Max Madro ’22 said when asked to describe the high octane sport. “Rugby is a great sport for social bonding because everyone feels like they make a commitment to the team and there is a much better sense of camaraderie. It’s the strongest real team sport that I’ve played,” Ryan Barnes ’22 said. That sense of comradery and love for a non-traditional sport is why the St. Olaf Club Rugby team wants to share their passion and grow the sport with the larger student body.

But first, what is rugby? Many people unfamiliar with the sport think of rugby as American football without pads. While rugby is a very physical sport, it is much more free-flowing than American football and much safer. “There are so many laws that dictate safe contact. One of the earliest techniques the club teaches you is to keep your head on the right side, meaning do not put your head between the person and the ground,” Madro said. There are two types of rugby that the team competes in: sevens and 15 man. Sevens is exhilarating with lots of scoring and long runs while 15 man focuses on strategic play as teams coordinate together to work the ball downfield. 

The beauty of rugby is that it requires little to no knowledge of the sport to play. “It’s not hard to pick up, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on equipment. As long as you are willing to put in the work and maintain fitness and a good attitude there is a place for anyone,” Barnes said. 

Besides being easy to pick up, rugby also offers a role for people of various size and athletic ability. “I always say rugby is for all shapes and sizes. It’s not like football where your size determines your position,” Henry Paton ’22 said. “You can have sporting experience but one of the greatest aspects of rugby is you don’t need to. There are infinite variations of rugby teams that work because of the variety of people that are on them,” Madro said. 

At St. Olaf, there are men’s and women’s rugby teams. The men’s team just wrapped up their fall season and will resume playing next spring. In the meantime, the club’s focus lies on improving the team and recruiting new members. “I’ve been a captain for four years and over the course of four years I think that right now is the strongest we’ve been in a long time. I think we are in a really unique position where we have a lot of people from different groups of friends at St. Olaf who want to play rugby,” Madro said. The club is currently looking for new members. “If you are kind of looking for maybe a new thing to get into, especially if you are an underclassman looking for a club that can help you find your base at St. Olaf a bit easier, the rugby club is definitely the way to go because we have one of the most diverse groups of people that play a sport on campus,” Madro said.

If you are interested in joining a fast-paced sport with a role for anyone where you can make new friends, email Max Madro at madro1@stolaf.edu for the men’s team or Abigail Prom ’22 at prom1@stolaf.edu for the women’s team.




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