Young Ruggers Need the Stories (and maybe an injury)

Having the opportunity to discuss rugby over several days with a 20 year old “I’m better than you” nephew while on vacation and then two middle school ruggers (and moms) at work– I guess college guys always think like that. As long as they’re both willing to catch some of the lore a cagey veteran like me can dispense though, stories are how ruggers learn the really good stuff. I warned the kid, whose already played U-13 level, about mentioning injuries to others– EVERYBODY likes telling their best injury stories, and its actually a badge of honor.

For his Mom, I underlined a fact about rugby while he tried clothes on, specifically how I talked to him because he was wearing a team shirt. He’s now part of an International fraternity, a group where you’ll find somebody almost anywhere talks to you for exactly that same simple reason.

Of course your young guy loves rugby–its tough, elemental, all-in guy (and gals) competition. Once those props up front tap each other in confirmation before a scrum-down, a referee says “Engage!” and groups of eight try to shove each other around. Your guys move the pile, thats proof you’re better–keep being physically better, you usually win.

I remind Moms that rugby tackling is much safer on the knees because tacklers must attempt to circle arms. Roll-blocking a dude isn’t allowed, so its your choice about putting your head near someones knees to tackle them correctly. lol Moms always cringe at the sound-memory of their child getting whacked because that ain’t pads cracking, it’s junior making that sound. Thinking how much street and pickup football I played as a kid, I still think I’d have liked scholastic rugby–being part of a team always counts.

I’m proud of how concisely I showed the Alexander Graham rugger my favorite tackle/move–only took about 25 seconds to explain. For all the story telling that is rugby’s stock in trade, getting a point across (“We lost 30-4, but we beat them 4-0 in a tournament the next Spring”) is best done without the embellishments.

The ‘prime directive’ in rugby is basically guy with the ball goes no further, especially when you’re in open field. If you fall for runner with ball faking a pass or kick, they can do it again later down the field, so stop that guy first. Often a runner stops when faced with a tackler, offering the ball to following players. Mauls and rucks are situations that usually develop there. MY MOVE as a 1-1 tackle, was to lift the guys right elbow so he only had one arm holding the ball, then *lift and turn* him towards MY people. Chances are they can get it loose from him, I block any of his guys because of offsides rule (and yeah, there are actually rules. That other crazy stuff you’re thinking about is Australian Rules football) and it sends a signal when you just PUT somebody where you want them.

The kid got it immediately, Mom asked if I coached, and I said no. Right down to brass tacks, last December my doc at OrthoCarolina told me I had an 85-yr. old knee, that his was only half as messed up when he got a replacement YEARS ago. I stopped wearing a neophrene sleeve last year because it gave me a false sense of support, but after recognizing I wasn’t doing coaching or a bunch of other things because I was constantly thinking about that wussy knee, yesterday I bought a $40 knee stabilizer (Shock Doctor) with flexible stays and velcro straps top and bottom. A 25 minute shooting session at pretty good local pocket part on Craig St. later, I was soooo happy talking to those recent ruggers finally pushed me to fix myself, back to guy who liked being a coach-athlete.

This brace fits like a glove, makes an injury better than its felt since the Saranac Lake Tournament of ’86, when that Maryland Olde Boy dove into the knee because my foot was planted at the goal line to meet his charge. Sure there’s a story that goes with that! but its really about Harvey, his wife cutting loose on tequila, and not making any friends because–with elevation and ice bags–I couldn’t leave the tent when they, ahem, arrived home.

Oh, and I let Spencer know that relative to his being better, the reason I played inside center (and eventually flyhalf, very similar to QB) was because I both passed well and picked up my flyhalf’s tackles.  (Spencer overcame getting teeth knocked loose in HS to play D-1 rugby at Delaware, but passing still doesn’t occur to him all that much.) I gave him a HULK body shirt– he likes clobbering guys– but that probably won’t impress him as much as the first time that elbow-turn tackle works for a 13 year old…

Oh, Panther prediction is 9-7, and Cam gets his new contract before Halloween.

Glenn S.

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