By the time most American athletes are in high school, they have years of experience with their sport.
Not so for rugby.
Hopkins Rugby is filled with players whose experience with the sport ranges from moderate to none at all. Team Captain Marty Broberg has played just four years. Yet their relative newness to the sport is just one more piece of evidence that these athletes are truly playing for the love of the game.
The Hopkins girls rugby team launched in 1999, while the boys team began in 2001. The teams remain club sports, not part of the high school.
To Americans, whose contact sport of choice uses a slightly more elongated ball, rugby is filled with a dictionary full of strange terms: Scrum, lineout, ruck, backline, gate. But the players insist that it’s easy to pick up if you just give it a try.
“Really, you just need to go out there and play your first game. Nothing will make sense at practice and then you go out there and halfway through the game you’re like, ‘Oh, I get it,’” said Broberg, a Hopkins High School senior.
That welcoming attitude is pervasive on the team. Partly that’s because Coach Dan “DJ” Johnson emphasizes working together and supporting one another. But hospitality is also an important rugby tradition. After each match, the home team hosts the visitors for a “social” in which the two teams sit down together for a meal.
“Regardless of win, lose, tie, we all buddy up, sit down with each other,” said Korbin Fearing, a Hopkins High School senior. “Rugby’s like a family, and it’s your family versus another family.”
Although most of these players weren’t born with a rugby ball in their hands, it’s already become a way of life for them.