Rugby team starts strong into 7th season

Taking on their sixth season, the Cedar Falls rugby team has high hopes for a great season and qualifying for State.

The team is composed of 10 students, ranging from ninth to 12th grade. Last year the team struggled and did not qualify for State,  the first time in team history.

“Last year we didn’t have as many guys. The determination was there. We just didn’t have as many guys who were willing to fight for each other, and I think that has changed this year,” senior Ben Boezinger said.

In the seven-week long season, the team will play 12 games, all leading up to the state qualifying games in May where the team plans to qualify. The team currently is 1-1-0 for their first two games, starting the season ranked third in their conference.

Team coach Brent Piper has worked all over the Cedar Valley to promote and start rugby teams. He shares his love of the sport through volunteer coaching and devoting much of his time to the students and the sport.

“I try to influence on them my passion for the game and my desire for new people to get involved. I know last year one of the kids brought three or four new guys, so I feel like my will to spread the game reflected onto him because he wanted to share the game as well,” Piper said.

With the lack of awareness of the sport, the team has struggled with finding players and people interested. Piper said, “It has been very difficult to grow the sport in this area. People have a false perception of rugby that it is dangerous because we don’t have pads, but it is not really the case. It is actually safer than football and a really low concussion rate. The hardest part is getting new people involved because nobody really understands rugby. People don’t know we have rugby, or people are afraid of rugby,” Piper said.

The team is not yet seen as a school sanctioned sport. They just play under the logo of Cedar Falls and use the players from the high school. The team itself is in the Eastern Iowa conference 2A class of the Iowa Youth Rugby Association.

“We try to mirror everything that the Iowa High School Athletic association does so that when we do get the go ahead we are already implementing the rules and regulations that they already have in place for all the other athletics,” Piper said.

The team has faced a few struggles over the years with numbers, which has held the team back from success.

“The biggest struggle is weather right now, along with overall number of athletes on our team. We have 10 registered players right now, but realistically we would like 14. The biggest struggle is getting enough kids out and just dealing with the current weather conditions,” Piper said.

However, the numbers have gone up from last year, which Boezinger notes makes the team stronger.

“Last year we didn’t have as many guys. The determination was there, we just didn’t have as many guys who were willing to fight for each other, and I think that has changed this year,” Boezinger said.

With the lack of knowledge of rugby in the area, many incoming players have never experienced the sport.

“We have a lot more new players, so learning the rules and plays are something we need to focus on more,” junior Dakota Southworth said.

The number of new players is crucial to the team for making  strides in the program, along with the knowledge of the more experienced players.

“This year I would say we have a lot more new players. A lot of the new players are very eager to learn. It is good having some experienced players to help teach the inexperienced players,” Piper said.

In the fall, Piper has plans of starting a women’s rugby team, broadening the opportunity to all and knowledge of the sport.

“We do not currently have a girls team in our area. We are hopefully going to start a girls’ rugby team at Cedar Falls,” Piper said.

As the team heads full force into the season, winning isn’t the only thing on their mind.

“We need to work on more of our skill sets such as passing, tackling, communication — all the fundamentals. Most of the intangibles are there, and I think that is what is going to get us to the point where we can win,” Boezinger said.

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