Rugby team grows, sets eyes on State

With an increase from 12 players to 22 players from last season, the rugby team is excited to see what they can do this year. 

“This year is different because there are so many people going out for the team. Our coach says that this is the most we’ve gotten in a long time,” junior Ryan Dunlop said. Their coach, Brent Piper, relies on the kids reaching out to their classmaxtes to get the game of rugby out there.

“Every year we have a meeting at the school, typically the week after state wrestling. We really rely on current athletes recruiting new athletes. We also send out information on social media, Facebook and Twitter. Most people that try rugby enjoy it,” Piper said.

Many players like Dunlop joined the team after hearing about it from their friends. 

“I learned about the rugby team from my friends. They told me how fun it was,” Dunlop said. 

Something that may create a barrier for kids to join rugby is the violence involved, but a lot of practice time is spent learning the fundamentals of the game to prevent injury and keep the game safe for the players. There are also many rules enforced to keep the players safe.

“I think a lot of people that don’t know about rugby think it is very dangerous. All sports have risk of injuries. Rugby can be a very physical sport, but our concussion rate is similar to baseball. We have lots of rule about tackling that help keep player safe, such as no tackles above shoulders or lifting in tackles. This help protect players’ heads and also prevents players from getting slammed on the ground,” Piper said. 

Dunlop had worries going into the season about injuries but was reassured by the rules in place and the time they spend in practice working on safety. 

“Rugby is a physical sport, but there are a lot of rules that take place to make sure that people don’t get hurt like tackling below the shoulders, which is a strict rule, and no lifting players off the ground when tackling,” Dunlop said. “At practice we also work on tackling and the right form of tackling, which really helps in games to keep us safe.”

Piper understands the concerns but hopes that kids will give the sport a try.

“Some kids are nervous about trying a new sport, but rugby is a very simple sport to learn. The good thing about rugby is you can have to ball as much or as little as you want. Same thing with contact. If you don’t want to get tackled, just pass the ball. Most sports correlate with rugby such as football and wrestling because of tackling and ball running. Even basketball can be like rugby because you have to move around to get open,” Piper said. “It’s a lot less overwhelming then it seems.” 

The team sits at 2-2 on the season with some very close losses against back to back reigning state champion Waverly-Shell Rock and Iowa City West. With their synergy, Dunlop believes that the team can pull it together and win State. 

“Our rugby team works together with tackling and passing and trusting one another that they will do their job. Our chemistry is really good because we are all friends and we bond like brothers. Sometimes we get in arguments at practice, but at the end of the day we come together as a family and know that we are just trying to get each other better,” Dunlop said. “I think that we have potential to go to State again and do better than last year, and I think a lot of my team members think that too.” 

While winning State is important to Piper, he enjoys seeing his players fall in love with the sport and go on to be successful at the collegiate level.

“I love helping develop student athletes. It is very rewarding watching the players grown into the sport. We have had over a dozen kids play collegiate rugby in our short existents. We had three kids win a national championship in collegiate rugby.” 

Piper hopes that the rugby community continues to grow at Cedar Falls and hopes to have a women’s rugby team in the near future.

Dunlop has seen rugby as a great opportunity and is thankful that he chose to join the team.

“I went out for rugby because I heard it was a fun sport, and I thought it would be good to try something new and keep myself in shape. I’m really glad that I went out.”

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