We think our high school, college and NFL American football players are so tough! But they're wearing helmets with bars or face shields, shoulder pads, hip pads, elbow and knee pads. And those quarterbacks in the NFL with names we're all familiar with even wear flak vests under their jerseys to protect sore ribs from time to time.
Rugby players do not wear any pads or equipment. Furthermore, each player on every team has to be able to run all over the field, catch the ball, throw it, kick it, block and tackle. This distinction is important because in football only the so-called skill position players....quarterback, running back, wide receiver and kicker are required to throw, run, catch or kick.
Remember, offensive and defensive lineman in football usually do not run all over the field. A lot of them in the NFL are too large, slow, or not agile enough to do it anyway. They are seldom seen very far from the line of scrimmage. Offensive and defensive linemen are only required to block and tackle. And when offensive linemen in the NFL are blocking it appears that most of the time they are merely using their bodies as a shield to protect the ball carrier from defenders. How difficult can it be to use your body as a shield when you have such a large body?
Unlike many of their "pot-bellied" counterparts in football, rugby players almost always have a "ripped" athletic body and they sprint all over the entire field. 2nd Lt. Jane Paar, who recently graduated from The Basic School (TBS) at Quantico Marine Corps Base, Va.; hopes to play rugby in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Paar was introduced to rugby when she was in high school in Wauwatusa, Wis. She played a variety of sports in high school and was on the swim team. The school's rugby team fullback could not play because of a shattered ankle. The students asked her if she wanted to try to play fullback in a rugby game.
Paar said yes and although it took time to understand the rules, she fell in love with rugby immediately. "She's self confident and isn't worried about what other people think. She isn't intimidated by anyone and wants to get the most out of everything here in the Marine Corps. I'm sure that's the same way she approached rugby," said Capt. Ben Levno.
Levno was Paar's staff platoon commander at TBS. Levno said Paar didn't seem to mind that she was the only female in a group of 13 men at the school. He said she readily shared her opinions and asked questions. Paar said rugby and the Marine Corps really compliment each other because they both involve high intensity, fortitude, patience and quick decision-making under mental and physical exhaustion.
"The mindset of the Marine Corps really applies to rugby....just push through the pain, give it 100 percent and you'll be good to go," she said. During her rugby career Paar has broken her foot, been knocked unconscious, gotten stitches and torn ligaments in both thumbs and her knee. "I just keep playing through it because that's what you've got to do," she told Mike DiCicco a reporter for the Quantico Sentry newspaper.
Paar played rugby for four years as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. She was offered a contract with the Olympic team before arriving in Virginia for TBS. She has to rely on her chain of command to allow her to juggle her obligation to the Marine Corps and Olympic rugby training.
The rugby training camp is located in Chula Vista, Calif. That's where she'll be for six months when she's not touring the world to play rugby as a member of the womens' Olympic team. So the next time you think male football players are so tough, think again and think about Jane Paar and all the other women who play rugby without pads and protective equipment.