By Benjamin Zief || Contributing Writer
Without knowing why a group of twenty to thirty college kids is gathered at a field half a mile from campus, one would be surprised at the collective enthusiasm they radiate. The field has goal-posts like a football field but nobody is wearing pads or flags and the only pieces of equipment that link the group together are their shorter-than-average shorts. Shortly after five pm, they jog around the field en route to warm up, dynamically, before turning the pandemonious pre-practice activities into organized drills. The energy visible before has transformed into diligence: serious faces and intentional barking of suggestions or support have overtaken the inane foolishness that encapsulated the pre-practice shenanigans. It is now clear, because of the underhand throwing motion of a less-than-aerodynamic football and the backward direction of each pass, that the group is Franklin and Marshall’s club rugby team.
Founded in 1972, Diplomats’ rugby is the oldest club sport on campus and is dedicated to practicing and competing in tournaments both in the fall and spring semesters. Currently, the team hosts one tournament per season, an event that attracts clubs in the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference including Johns Hopkins, Lafayette, De Sales, Millersville, Susquehanna, and Princeton. Tournaments are the impetus behind the team’s industrious preparation. Four times a semester, they are an opportunity to display the hard work and preparation that go into each season. The spring season is the most competitive, offering the chance to place nationally amongst other club rugby teams in the National Collegiate Rugby Organization. Following a year where no formal competition between schools was held, the prospect of competing this year reflects the dogged commitment to sustaining club rugby’s existence. Captain and President Sebastian Meyer ’22 believes tournaments are a time where “the little moments make the hard work pay off” in front of friends, family, and fellow teammates. The team’s participation in competition this year reflects a series of little moments, unrecognizable at the time, that manifested the possibility of this season.
The men’s current squad boasts players with various athletic backgrounds including football, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, and crew. Each player brings with him unique assets, whether those be decisive ball handling and decision making, speed and agility, or physicality and strength; each adds to the collective talent on the pitch. Rugby offers a structured competitive outlet for students that are hesitant towards playing a sport in college. Members have the opportunity to meet a fun group of guys, embrace leadership roles, and stay in shape. “There is something rewarding and gratifying about embracing a new experience and learning the skills that come with it,” said Meyer ‘22. Like many, Meyer was new to the sport his freshman year and now reflects on his time with the team as unique and rewarding: “There’s something just special about banging heads and competing.” “Banging heads,” of course, being analogous to intense physical competition that the team prides itself on.
There is a unique culture that is evident in the team. The sport itself produces a methodically reckless way of playing that extends to the attitudes of the players. Their fun-loving attitude and confidence are a product of the preparation, relationship building, and enjoyment being a part of the team brings out.
At the end of the day, President for the spring season Jesse Smit ‘23 thinks, “The team is inviting and welcoming [with] community, teamwork, and determination [being] fundamental to the culture of F&M rugby.”
Benjamin Zief is a sophomore and contributing writer for The College Reporter. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.