Rugby: a fast paced, hard-hitting sport not meant for the faint of heart. Despite the lack of recognition from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the SUNY New Paltz Men’s Rugby team travels and competes vigorously with other school’s club teams.
Although their regular season ended in the fall, co-captains Inside Center Dean Hottum, Hooker Fred Salamone and Prop James Weston are still holding team practices. Spring season is development season; a time to look for new recruits and to strengthen the team’s roster, Hottum said.
Nine out of the 15 starting players are graduating this year. This leaves the captains with a squad of relatively new and inexperienced rugby players, Hottum said.
“It’s hard to have such a young team,” he said. “We’re probably going to have a pretty tough fall.”
Although Men’s Rugby teams are considered club sports teams at their respective schools, the play in this league is not to be taken lightly.
“You can’t be afraid of contact,” Hottum said. “You’re inevitably going to be hit, and probably hurt.”
The team takes their program very seriously, Salamone said. Practices are held five times a week to keep players in peak physical condition. Running, hitting drills and scrimmages keep their bodies strong and their endurance high.
The club plays rugby 15s (as opposed to sevens, 10s or 13s), meaning each team has 15 active players on the field during game play.
“For 15s you need bigger guys, higher stamina and more strength,” Salamone said.
With rugby’s fast-paced play along with the consistently high injury rate that accompanies the game, substitutions during gameplay need to be made frequently, Salamone said. Because of this, the team generally has a considerably large team. In the 2011 fall season, the club team had 59 students on its roster.
Weston said he wished the team could be recognized as an NCAA team. Salamone said this is unlikely and hasn’t already happened because of rugby’s lack of popularity in the U.S. It’s more popular and respected as a sport in other countries, he said.
Weston said if the NCAA would recognize college rugby teams there would be a better chance of a professional league developing within the states.
The team is looking forward to a possible upcoming trip to SUNY Albany where they will compete in UAlbany’s Rugby Weekend Tournament, May 5 and 6. Their next game is at home against SUNY Maritime, Saturday, April 28 at 10 a.m.