In an area with no shortage of youth sports opportunities, more and more student-athletes, both boys and girls, are taking on rugby as their sport of choice. A group of about forty such young men were in action recently when the Anne Arundel County Rugby U19 boys squared off in their season-opening match against the Maryland Exiles of Rockville at the American Legion Field in Severna Park on March 10.
Taking the field for Anne Arundel County – formerly Severn River Rugby Football Club – was a mixture of players from different area schools, including Arundel High School, Broadneck, Severna Park and Kent Island.
“I like it because it’s more free,” said James Jones, a sophomore football player at Arundel High School who scored a try – the equivalent of a touchdown in football – in the game against the Exiles. “In other sports you have to do things by how your coaches want you to, but here it’s more free.”
Freedom within the game is the characteristic mentioned most when players describe what they love about rugby. Everything about the game is unrestrained; there are no helmets, no pads, and few stoppages in play. In football—the sport to which rugby is often compared and contrasted – a tackle ends a play. In rugby, a tackle simply calls for the player to give the ball up to a teammate. This makes for a fast pace with long, uninterrupted stretches of action. Like soccer, there are no timeouts, and the game pauses only for halftime. In the scrum (the primary way of restarting play after the ball goes out of bounds in which tightly-packed clusters of players from both teams bind together to fight for possession), in-game rugby justice is meted out with allowable pushes and shoves, the players turning their teenage rage into a healthy battle and a hard-nosed respect for one another.
Growing interest in the sport is has not yet penetrated the county’s public school sports landscape, but the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) sanctions varsity-level rugby teams at high schools such as Mt. St. Joe, Archbishop Spalding, Calvert Hall, Loyola and John Carroll. Several area opportunities for girls’ rugby exist, including at Anne Arundel County Rugby. In addition to the boys’ U19 team, the club also fields a girls’ U19 team, and the club always welcomes new players regardless of experience level.
“When players come out, they love it,” said Anne Arundel County Head Coach Michael “Moose” Anderson. “The camaraderie between the players is special. They love the sport. They practice hard, and we just stay positive with them always, encourage them, and they get to become some pretty good rugby players.”
Many of the club’s players describe rugby as beneficial to their development as all-around athletes. Anne Arundel County Rugby has players with a wide range of sports backgrounds, from those who have participated minimally or not at all in team sports to those who continue to compete on their schools’ football, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, wrestling and track teams. All describe rugby as something that helps their conditioning, agility, speed, coordination, teamwork and toughness, both physical and mental.
“I love it. I love the conditioning, the running, the teamwork,” says Aaron Satzberg, 16, a junior at Broadneck High School who has played rugby for five years. “We have kids from this whole area, not just one school, and it’s just a great group of guys to hang with.”
If you are interested in playing rugby with Anne Arundel County Rugby, contact Head Coach Michael “Moose” Anderson at 443-413-9289 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Boys and girls of high school age and younger are welcome, and no experience is necessary. Visit www.annearundelrugby.org.