Did You Know There is a Rugby Team in East Texas?
In East Texas, when someone is asked about sports, the common answers would be football, basketball, baseball, softball or soccer. But, what about rugby? If you’re like me, knowledge of the sport is very little.
A friend of mine, Lindsey, told me recently about a rugby team she is a part of. It peaked my curiosity. With her help, I reached out to their coach, Derek Fisher, for some incite into the Tyler Hoplites Rugby Football Club.
I don’t know much about Rugby other than highlights I’ve seen on Sportscenter. So, what is Rugby and how does it differ from Football?
Rugby Union is a full contact team sport with the objective of scoring more points than the opposition within a set time frame by either touching the ball down in the opponent’s try zone or by kicking the ball between the posts of the opponent’s try zone at appropriate moments. American Football evolved from Rugby Union and incorporates 2 elements that are not allowed in rugby: the forward pass and blocking. The other differences are that there are 15 players on a rugby side. There is no stoppage of play unless the ball goes out of bounds, there is an infringement, or time has expired. This means that all 15 players have offensive and defensive responsibilities. Play continues even if there is an injury unless that injury interferes with the current state of play. A Rugby Union game is played over 2, 40 minute halves. Gaining in popularity is Rugby Sevens, which is 7 a side rugby played in 7 minute halves.
Why did you want to bring Rugby to East Texas?
I have a very good friend of mine who commented that for all that rugby has given me in the 13 years I played the sport, I have not given back to the sport and developed it in the US like I should be doing. I thought about that, was deeply embarrassed and ashamed, and realized that the only way that the US is going to be a global powerhouse in rugby is for people like me to start passing on our knowledge. In a football dominant region like East Texas, adults don’t get an opportunity to play a full contact sport after their football days are over. This is an area rich with potential, just not the organizational structure to realize that potential. Hopefully the Tyler Hoplites can provide that competitive environment for people who miss competitive sports.
For someone that is interested in joining, but has no idea how to play, what would they expect on their first day?
This is a new club, so almost every single person on the team had no prior rugby experience before starting with us. The most common feedback from people’s first practice is that it’s totally different to anything that they have experienced, it’s a lot of fun, the team is very supportive and welcoming, and that there is a genuine vibe around the team that we’re going to work hard to make sure EVERYONE improves.
Give some background into the name of your club, Hoplites. There is a really cool story behind it.
Because rugby is such a collective effort, the Hoplite was a perfect symbol of what that really means. A hoplite is the basic infantryman of the Greek Phalanx. Most people know what a hoplite is from the movie 300, but there is a much deeper meaning to the Spartan ethos. The most important piece of equipment that a hoplite has is their shield. The way the phalanx is set up, the shield actually does not protect you, but it protects the person to your left. A Hoplite was forgiven for losing their spear or sword, but never their shield. Because if you lost your shield, then that meant that you were not protecting the man next to you. The phalanx was the most advanced unit of its time because of the cohesive unity that was presented by a large group of individuals acting as one, and with the benefit of others instead of themselves. Our goal and objective is to create better members of our community and society as a whole by having the first consideration of our members be of others first and themselves second.
Your Rugby club is not just for men, you have a ladies team, too. Talk about the ladies side of play. I have a feeling they could give the guys hell on the field.
You are absolutely correct in your feeling. One of the most pleasant surprises has been the commitment, interest, and follow through that the ladies have exhibited. There are some tough players on the women’s side! They are also the most consistent attendees of practice, the earliest to pay their monthly dues, and the most committed to growing not only their side, but the organization as a whole. I could not be prouder of their efforts, and they are currently outpacing the men’s side in many, many ways. We view a perspective member as a rugby player first, their gender comes in second. But the women’s side is exhibiting some serious potential, and we’re very excited to see just how good they are on the playing field.
Where do your teams practice and could the public stop by to get a peek at Rugby play?
We currently practice at Raabe Field which may be at 17032 Paluxy Rd, depending on what GPS says! The map on the website clearly provides the correct location no matter what version of GPS someone uses to get to the field. We have open practices, so yes, a curious person can stop by to watch and observe. Practices are Tuesday and Thursday from 6:45 – 9 regardless of weather. Thursdays we go out after practice for our traditional social held at Garage Bar.
Is this a sport that you would like to introduce to kids in the future?
Absolutely! Youth rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and as we get more established, one of our top priorities is to develop youth rugby programs in East Texas. One of our sponsors is a dominant health care provider, and we are already in discussions with them to provide rugby as an option for their youth camps, so we are taking Youth Development very seriously!
Many thanks to coach Derek Fisher. This is a sport I am interested to learn more about. If you would like to know more about the Tyler Hoplites Rugby Football Club, just go to tylerrfc.com.