A *rugby virgin answers the question: Is America ready for rugby?
Is America ready for rugby? Definitely.
Rugby may have international roots, but love for rugby extends to our “far waters” because of the games deeper values. And it is these values—the teamwork, the brotherhood (and sisterhood), the sportsmanship—deep within the game of rugby that explain it all…
…especially why rugby has the most dedicated fans. Rugby moves at an incredibly fast pace and there are no breaks, yet we keep our eyes pinned to the game. Regardless of the tough tackles and mistakes we watch our players make, we are always right behind them. I am a newcomer to the sport of rugby, but even I can see that in rugby there is a different dedication among fans.
Unlike other sports, rugby is famous for the following: “Leave it all on the field.” After the game, we are still the toughest of fans, but our opposing sides become family in celebration of the sport. I’m rarely a party animal but I’d never turn down an invitation to post-match festivities.
Studies show rugby to be the fastest growing sport in America, especially among college and university students, but why are most Americans still not ready for rugby?
One of the main reasons I believe rugby has had slow entry (no pun intended) into the American market is lack of knowledge of the sport. Sports fans commonly associate rugby with American football, and thus, may not be willing to watch rugby if they feel it is only a duplication of American football.
That being said, if rugby finds its place in the American sports market, the associations backing more popular contact sports (i.e. football) will feel threatened. In retaliation we may see more and more competition between football and rugby. At that stage I believe rugby can win the battle but not easily.
Americans will be looking for something fresh and new but a huge barrier (the biggest barrier for me and others I talk to) is the “danger” involved in rugby. It is hard to look past the lack of protection but very vigorous play (again, no pun intended) involved in rugby. Even I had trouble understanding. I thought, “Less protection could mean more maneuverability but it would mean numerous injuries.” Before I learned from a trusted source that rugby players are less likely to dive head first into tackles and are more likely to avoid injury as a result of less protection, I would have never given the sport a chance.
Is America ready for rugby? Definitely. But what comes first is adjusting the lack of knowledge that comes with adopting any new sport. I believe this can be fixed by introducing others to rugby while helping them understand the details of rugby (especially the details about protection and differences as compared to American football). In addition I feel that at a local level, clubs and leagues could get more involved with the understanding/teaching of rugby, especially with the teen and pre-adult age group who would be interested in another contact sport.
At the same time, roots are already in place. Rugby sevens entrance into the 2016 Summer Olympics will be a major step for rugby in general. The event only took place for a few years but in 1920 and 1924, America brought home the gold. Because the Olympics are such a large part of a nation’s pride, America’s interest in the sport will grow quickly leading up to the events. I believe that this will spark a revival of rugby in America and will make Americans more aware of what they have been missing.
*Bakline’s very own intern! We welcome any comments/input -