Team sports have a funny way of bringing out the best in athletes. As an individual, every athlete is fueled by the inner need to achieve victory and perform at their highest level. To do so, however, it is necessary to respect the unspoken rules of sportsmanship. No matter how bad one’s desire is to beat their opponent, at the end of the day, mutual respect must not be broken. These two polar opposite ideas mesh to make sports great, and one sport takes this to an absolute extreme. The game of rugby has the reputation of a barbaric backyard brawl, but, after taking a closer look, it is clear that this stereotype could not be further from the truth.
Rugby, which originated in England, is not too popular in the United States. Rugby is a club at Minnetonka High School rather than a recognized team sport. Getting rugby popularised is a recurring battle that its fans and participants fight. Take Juan Pablo Salcedo, a Minnetonka rugby coach from Chile. Attending a British immersion school as a kid introduced Salcedo to the game, and he has been a fan ever since.
“Rugby has constant motion, so it’s very fun to watch. It’s a really simple game. Passes are backwards, and you tackle low,” said Salcedo, “but I think what drew me into rugby was the unique community. [Rugby] looks brutal on the field, but the way that the two teams treat each other is very nice.”
The nature of many sports is to be fairly hostile towards the opponent, which is to be expected. In rugby, that is simply not the case. Players are expected to show the utmost respect to their teammates, coaches, the opposition and especially the referees, who are referred to as “The Sir.” In other sports, it’s common for referees to get called lots of names, but “sir” is not usually one of them.
Throughout a rugby match, the two sides trample over each other in the name of victory, but, after it concludes, the hosting team will provide food for the visitors and a sort of summer cookout commences.
“It’s a great example of aggressiveness but also being a gentleman,” said Salcedo.
As for Minnetonka Rugby, this season will begin with one goal in mind.
“A successful season would be to win the state championship. I’d be lying if I said anything else would be a success. That’s our goal,” said Salcedo.
If Minnetonka is to be successful this year, Salcedo thinks it will be in large part due to the leadership of the senior class.
“We have young guys coming to practices, and they are able to learn the game from guys who are skilled and talented, but are especially nice,” he said. “They take the game seriously and lead by example.”
Leadership and camaraderie have been major factors in the success of many Minnetonka teams this year, and the same can be said of the rugby squad. Inclusivity is a huge aspect of the team.
“No matter your height, weight, or athleticism, as long as you can tackle and pass the ball, you have a place on our team,” said Salcedo. “Sometimes it surprises kids that they can be the ones making big plays.”
This spring, Minnetonka’s ability to play together and the team’s mutual trust should be a big factor in their success, just as it has been for many other Skipper athletic programs in 2022.
In short, rugby’s combination of high-level intensity and blissful friendliness is almost unmatched by any other event. The job of many sports is to bring out the good in the world and showcase it on the highest stages. If rugby is not a perfect example of the greatness of sports, the perfect example does not exist.