We all get older. We finish school, complete our sports careers, and begin our lives.
Some of us decide to take one more bite of the sports apple, and continue the unique experience of being a teammate. Some of us do it for exercise, some for the camaraderie, and some for an exhilaration derived from "the win" that's like none other.
Kickball, dodgeball, softball, and basketball are the most common ways "second career" athletes accomplish the exercise, camaraderie, and exhilaration, but for many, there is nothing like rugby!
Born in England, during the 1800's, rugby's objective is to carry the ball across a line, while observing certain rules. For the uninitiated, rugby resembles American Football (even the ball itself looks like an expanded version of the football we grew up with) ... without pads, unless, by padding, you mean heavy shirts (formerly made of cotton...today they're polyester and skin tight) with rubber buttons!
Popular across the globe (you may have seen the Fiji Rugby team dance, or Matt Damon portrayal of South African star, Francois Pienaar, in Invictus), rugby has "niche status" here in the United States. Because equipment is inexpensive (see above), and Americans love collision sports, Rugby has been touted as our next sports craze. Unfortunately, for the most part, media coverage has been sparse, and national television audiences have been relegated to cable sports outlets.
In the Tampa Bay area, however, Rugby participation has been growing. Men, Women, and "Old Boys" have teams and leagues, and several teams, Tampa Bay Krewe, Sarasota Surge and the Bay Area Pelicans are a few representatives in the state. Florida teams encourage every age and skill level, and physical shortcomings won't preclude anyone from joining a side. There's even a unique, rough and tumble version available for athletes bound to wheelchairs. Including College Club teams, Florida hosts more than 100 Rugby sides.
"Donate Blood, Play Rugby" has been a popular phrase that encompasses the intensity of the sport. Whether the playing surface is grass, artificial turf, or sand, players encounter bumps, bruises, and sometimes bloodshed. Interestingly, concussions are rare, and the brain scrambling collisions that are common on the football gridiron seldom occur on the Rugby Pitch. Some sports medicine physicians point to the fact that, because rugby players have virtually no protection, the tactic of using one's head as a weapon doesn't exist, even in the most fervent competitions.
If hitting a softball tossed in a lazy arc doesn't excite you, look for a rugby organization close to you, and walk on to an open tryout. Within a short time, you'll find your right blend of exercise, camaraderie, and exhilaration.