Wednesday, May 18, 2016

From Awful to Awesome

Happy 25th to The University of Cincinnati Rugby Team

Long ago, in a time and place far away from where I am today, I was an athlete.  And twenty-six and a half years ago I was a member of a laughable rugby team, one of the worst ever.  We were beyond terrible. We were a joke. We sometimes had a hard time getting fifteen guys on the pitch by kickoff, we yelled at each other during games and consistently at practices, and the University of Cincinnati lost all of it's union matches in the fall of 1989.  We were so bad that by the holiday break, we were hearing regular speculation that UC would likely not have a rugby team when we resumed classes the following fall.  We were an embarrassment to the school, the Queen City, our friends and families that came to see us get beat up, and frankly ourselves.  I'm not being overly critical, I'm just being honest.  It was sad. 

Now, in our defense, none of us knew how to play rugby when we sat down for our first college lectures.  The team was made up of athletes like me; football, basketball, soccer, and hockey players, runners and wrestlers too, but no experienced ruggers.  On top of this, we didn't have full time coaches nor any designated field or training space.  Compared to other sports teams on campus we were like orphan gypsies.  What we did have were some rock solid volunteer coaches.  In addition, we made the most of Cincinnati's public fields to practice and play our matches, but what drove us during our ineptness was our genuine passion for the sport of rugby. 

After our pitiful fall season at the end of '89, something surprising happened the following spring... the Bearcat Rugby Team started to figure lots of things out and... we started winning.  We won several key games and racked up a handful of victories in some big Spring Tournaments.  Then, before summer break, we scrambled around and managed to get some budget money from UC for the next academic year.  

I wouldn't say this reversal came easy, but it happened and it was a cool thing to witness.  First off, as a group, we made a conscious effort to be more optimistic and put forth a solid effort as a team to squash negative or divisive comments.  We also learned how to really work hard as a team on and off the field.  We got better at playing rugby, but we also figured out how to recruit and retain players, we became better organized, got smarter with our budget and fund raising, and we started to simply communicate more effectively during games and practices which carried over to all the other things we did as a team.  This all helped us turn things around quickly and in a big way.  

When we laced up our boots in September we kept winning and we qualified for the National Championships.  Just a year before we hadn't been able to win a game in the Ohio Union, but twelve months after we found ourselves grouped with the top sixty-four college teams in the country.

In the spring of 1991, the first four rounds of the National Tournament were hosted by Ohio State in Columbus.  We cruised past the University of Tennessee in Round 1, easily knocked out Slippery Rock U. in the second round, but we didn't get past the Buckeyes in our Round 3 match-up.  It was a close game, but they came away with the win.

We'd had an unexpected and unimaginable run that put us in solid contention for the championship, but we came up short.  However, we did something that had seemed impossible eighteen months prior and finished with a final ranking in the Top Ten.     

The University of Cincinnati Rugby Football Club - Spring 1992

Hard to believe it's been 25 years.  Three cheers for UC Rugby!  Hip, Hip, Hooray!  Hip, Hip, Hooray!  Hip, Hip, Hooray! be continued.

Memories of Rugby - (June 2, 2014)


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