The Next Big Thing – Intercollegiate Rugby
Intercollegiate rugby is currently surmised to be the fastest growing sport for women and men both. Do not assume that it is just a sport which is played by people who have really high pain thresholds and have beards. For years there has been a rise in the participation in this sport, with 1.2 million people in America currently playing Rugby. This number is inclusive of 32,000 participants in college programs (900), as per the estimated provided by USA today. Also the media is rapidly catching up with major television networks like NBC featuring the 2016 Olympic Summer Games and also broadcasting live matches.
A number of students look forward to soccer scholarship in USA. But rugby too is a big thing and fast approaching its tipping point in the country. It is time we got out on the pitch and sharpened our knowledge about the sport and playing it professionally.
The game in essence is similar to football, as the main objective is the same in both the games, which involves getting the ball past beyond the touch line of the opposing team or kicking the ball between the goal posts. The dissimilarity lies in the fact that in rugby, at any given point of time, there are 15 players on the pitch per team. Also outside of half time, there are no stoppages. Even when one considers these differences, the passion required in both the games is high. The spirit of the game is similar in both the sports, as there is a lot of contact and the game is played between tough competitors. When we talk about speed, at the highest level rugby stars are similar to NFL players and may exceed at time in the stature. This can be exemplified best with the example of the player who is rugby legend – Jonah Lomu. He stood 6.5 ft tall, had sprinter speed and weighed at 262 pounds. Jerry Jones, the owner of Dallas Cowboys pursued him in the 1990s.
Let us look at the history of college rugby: Back in the 19th century, the modern American football was set up by the intercollegiate rugby. Schools were already competing against each other in rugby, some of these schools included Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. This was years prior to Walter Camp – the Yale coach, modifying the rules of rugby to create a mint new sport called football. Walter changes the four downs to gain 10 yards, this game flourished and rose in popularity in the 20th century, while rugby slowly lost its ground. But the 1960s saw rugby comeback to the college campuses and this resurgence culminated in the establishment of the USA Rugby or the United States of America Rugby Football Union then in 1976. This saw a growth in the game, with as many as 1,000 rugby clubs were formed by 1980, across the country. And since then the popularity has been on a rise with the clubs, maturing into varsity sports and now schools are also beginning to offer to both men and women, rugby scholarships.
Intercollegiate rugby is now tapping into international mass appeal. Rugby is an inclusive sport which does not discriminate – for instance ¼ club participants in a rugby club today are women on an average. This team sport helps in building camaraderie which is viral component of its universal appeal.