No Pain No Gain
The players throw and kick a ball to each other, there are bone-crushing tackles, and the players do not wear pads.
That’s because rugby, the oft-forgotten Staples sport, is based on the two most popular sports at school.
At a school where football and soccer are the most popular sports for Superfans, one might think that rugby would flourish. Rugby has been described as a mix between the two sports.
However, rugby games at Staples have often lacked a large fan presence. This is something that Coach Joseph Barahona and his team is looking to change this year.
“Everyone starts playing football when they are little,” Barahona said. “They know baseball, they know basketball, but rugby is kind of relatively new.”
The popularity of the sport has skyrocketed in recent years. When Barahona first started coaching the team, there were 24 players on the roster. This year, there are 64, and students are still signing up.
Still, the fan presence at the games has been lacking, Barahona said.
Barahona attributes the lack of enthusiasm for rugby at Staples to the fact that the sport is not well-known. While popular on college campuses, rugby teams are more rare at high schools and are rarely seen at lower age levels. The sport is so rare in Connecticut in fact that the FCIAC website doesn’t even have a section for rugby.
The team was almost helped out by some positive media coverage last season in the form of a highlight reel on Good Morning Staples.
While this coverage spread the word about the team, there was one problem: the footage shown was from the only home game of the season. After that, every rugby game was at another school, largely due to the lower division the team was playing in.
Coupled with rules that American audiences are not used to, this means that attracting fans can be a daunting task.
But the players don’t see this as too much of an obstacle. Jackson Moss ’12, outside center and one of the co-captains of the team, believes that the sport is perfect for the average Staples fan.
“Superfans should come out to see the big tackles of football mixed with the continuous play of soccer,” Moss said. “I can assure you the entire game will keep you on the edge of your seat.”
The circumstances surrounding this season should certainly make things interesting. While the team played in a lower Division Two league last season, it performed so well that it was moved back up to Division One.
This success has given the team some confidence coming into this season.
“Last year we went undefeated up until our last regular season game, which was big to prove we’re a real team with serious competition,” Jackson Yang ’13, flanker and another co-captain, said.
However, the team has graduated 11 of its 15 starters from last season, so a lot of seniors will have to fill some cleats.
Yang showed little concern.
“I wholeheartedly know that we have the talent and depth this year to fill those spots and have plenty of strong backup players,” Yang said.
Moss uses the words of his coach to keep his head up.
“As our coach says, ‘If you really want something, you cannot be denied,” Moss said.
And while getting fans to see the game would be appreciated, Barahona’s real goal is create a great team, both during the games and after.
“My motto to the kids is ‘animals on the field, gentlemen off of it,’” Barahona said.