Men in Short Shorts: A Window into Rugby at Boston College

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June 6, 2013 by conteconfidential

“Extra Mayooooo!!” our captain yelled out just before we engaged in a scrum against UMass-Amherst. Extra Mayo? Not the clearest reference, but everyone knew what it meant.

We had to get an especially big push in the scrum at a critical point in the match to secure possession and the win. At this late stage in the match, everything is a scrap, including the inspirational shouts.

Most players on the team of 15 had been in the game for nearly 80 minutes of pushing, grappling, tackling, sprinting and rucking. The body is physically beat: dehydrated, scraped up, bruised and often bloodied. What were once white rugby shorts are soiled brown. We had to pool all our remaining energy into this last push so that the last 75 minutes weren’t for not.

And we did.

I joined the rugby club during my sophomore year. I had been active in sports in high school. Although intramural sports at Boston College were a casual good time, they left something wanting.

I had zero experience with rugby when I began. The sport was entirely new to me. It was entirely new to my mother as well. When she saw a game in the fall, she commented that she thought it was a “circus,” referring to the line-outs where we would lift someone 10 feet in the air by their butt and their thighs and the scrums, which were formed by a mass of groaning men.

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BC and Northeastern go for a line-out (photo credit: Duncan Walker)

Rugby is far different than the sports I played in high school. I had to learn quickly, and here are few of my takeaways:

1) Whatever you learned in football, throw it away.

Rugby may seem to have a lot in common with football, but most of the time it is counterproductive to use football strategies. You don’t want to fight for that extra inch after contact, and it’s never permissible to run east to west with the ball.

2) Don’t gloat…

When someone scores a try there isn’t a lot of high-profile celebrating and trash talking. Maybe it’s because rugby can be a very humbling sport. One minute you may be scoring that try, but the next you could be crushed between two tacklers with the wind knocked out of your lungs. Better save your celebrations until after the 80 minutes.

3) But you better cheer like hell. 

That means supporting your teammates with a proper “LET’S GO” every now and again. There needs to be a raw, impassioned spirit around at all times to push your team through exhausting conditions.  This isn’t gloating. It’s encouragement, and there’s a difference.

4) You don’t have to be a bag of muscle to play.

A lot of what people know about rugby is from what they see on an occasional televised professional game. Our rugby players aren’t those tree-trunk-solid Irishmen. If you can deliver a hit, and take one in turn, you’ll be fine. With that said, it doesn’t hurt to hit the weight room once in awhile.

5) Know your body.

Everyone on the team seems to have a reoccurring injury. I severely sprained both my ankles last season. One guy breaks his nose about every other match. Another has dislocated his shoulder multiple times. Know what injury you’re predisposed to, wrap it, support it, throw a brace on it, do what you have to do to protect it.

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Players get muddy quickly during games (photo credit: Duncan Walker)

6) After the game, quarantine your uniform.

When my sister visited me last fall, she condemned my room as unlivable. I had piled my soiled rugby uniform in the corner, and let’s just say it smelled less than pleasant. There are few things dirtier than your rugby shorts and socks will be after a game; they’re grass stained, caked with mud and crusted over with dried sweat. So, until you finally get around to washing them, leave them outside, or sealed away in the dark reaches of your basement.

7) Don’t join for the glory.

This is a club sport at BC. And rugby isn’t an NCAA sport period. We don’t get big crowds at our games or much publicity either. We work hard at practice, our training sessions and at games for our teammates and ourselves. There really isn’t anyone else.

8) Join for the stories.

Being a part of the rugby team is one of the best choices I’ve made at BC. The jokes, the laughs, the camaraderie and the beat-up, burnt-out satisfaction that comes at the end of a match make it all worthwhile.

By guest writer Mirko Kruse

Mirko Kruse is a senior at BC studying economics. This summer, he is working as a marketing assistant at Argopoint LLC, a legal consulting firm in Beacon Hill.

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