One of the fastest growing sports on college campuses is rugby, and the sport is growing at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Black and Blood Rugby has represented UWSP as the club team since 1976. The team plays two seasons over the academic school year playing one in the fall and one in spring. Club Vice President Sven Casper says the seasons are different for the team.
“Fall season is our competitive season where we play 15 on 15 to qualify for playoffs and a championship,” Casper said. “Spring season is more relaxed games training new players and having fun. There is more seven on seven games compared to 15 on 15”.
In the fall season the club plays about five to seven games in their conference: the National Small College Rugby Organization. Spring is different with more exhibition tournaments compared to conference games. According to Casper and club President Ben Geurts, the fall season wasn’t what the team hoped for, but they have seen improvement this spring.
“Fall didn’t go as well after losing key players. We didn’t make playoffs, and it was a tougher time with rebuilding the team,” Casper said. “This spring there’s a lot of improvement with new guys finding their roles and coming into their own. I like what I’m seeing”.
“Last fall we just fell just short finishing third,” Geurts said. “Top two teams in conference move on and we lost our last two games which were very close”.
Casper says that playing seven on seven is a different style of game compared to the normal game of 15 on 15. “Seven on seven opens up the game, and its more for the faster players. It allows us to get the ball out faster with quick movements,” Casper said.
With fall season being more competitive, the spring season allows the club to recruit players and teach them the game. This season the club has 35 members which is more than average.
“Usually we have low 20s,” Casper said. “Usually we are not so great at getting players because they’re skeptical about getting hurt, but rugby is safer than football.
Recruiting is also harder for the team because there is no intramurals to recruit players from. “We have to recruit players from word of mouth,” Casper said. “It’s a cult kind of sport, once it’s in your blood you can’t let it go.”
Both Geurts and Casper say anybody can join the club. They are always looking for new members every year, but it takes a while to get used to it. “We welcome anybody, if you bring a t-shirt, shorts and mouth guard we will find you a spot,” Casper said. “When it comes to rugby you’ll be lost in your first game, because it’s organized chaos with so many different things going on.”
Casper and Geurts say next season the expectation is to be better, and make the playoffs.
“My expectations are high with getting new players and the current ones improving,” Casper said. “I expect us to be in contention once again because when we were it was a fun time”.
“We definitely can compete next season. We have a lot of good rookies still learning, and we can go up from here,” Geurts said.
The team’s next home game is May 10, when the team takes on the alumni team in an exhibition. Fall season begins next academic year starts, and if interested in joining the club you can like their Facebook page or contact Ben Geurts at email@example.com.