Rugby is a sport that is rapidly expanding in the United States, and the Whittier College Rugby Club looks to contribute to this growth. If you’ve ever seen a group of students sprinting back and forth on the grass lawn of the Upper Quad while pitching a ball to one another in the late hours of the day, then you’re more than likely at least familiar with the organization.
The Rugby Club is one of the more unique clubs on campus in the way that they actively compete against other schools. While they are still technically considered a club, many of the members have ambitious hopes for what the group can do in the future. Junior Adrian Delgado serves as club’s President and shared some of his hopes for rugby’s potential at Whittier College.
“My hope is that one day soon, rugby can become an actual sport here on campus,” said Delgado. “Physically all of us go through as much as every other athlete on campus, which is why I want us to have the same benefits that other sports do. So right now, I’m working on getting funding approved through Senate, so we can have legitimate equipment, take care of league fees, and get all of our guys insured, which is all stuff that other sports have.”
Senior Mafi Tupou serves as Team Captain for the club, and he also expressed his interest in making rugby a mainstay here on campus. “Because it’s a club, there are a lot of restrictions on what we can do as an organization, so that’s why we want it to be an actual sport here,” stated Tupou. “Obviously, growing our organization starts with recruitment, which is huge for us right now. Since I’ve been here, the club has gotten bigger and bigger every year.”
Both Delgado and Tupou attribute the recent interest spike in the club to the rugby’s overall growth in recent years. CNN recently reported that there are over 115,000 registered rugby players in the United States, with 32,000 of them coming from colleges. This past year at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, rugby sevens (a seven-on-seven variant) was played for the first time in the history of the Olympics.
“We play touch in the Upper Quad on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 4:45,” said Delgado. “That’s really where anyone can come out, and where we show everyone the basics. If you want to learn how to play, we’ll teach you. We were all there at one point; even our veterans. Everyone has the potential if they want to play. At the end of the day, if someone shows up and is willing to play, I will not turn them away.”
Tupou also reiterated the fact that there are no requirements for joining the club. “Honestly, just give it a chance, it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what size you are, how fast you are, or how athletic you are. Anybody can play. When I first joined, one of the first things that grabbed my attention was the atmosphere. I got a very welcoming and friendly vibe from everyone but at the same time, it was really competitive.”
Rugby is technically in season during the spring, however the club is currently using the downtime during the fall to promote recruitment. “What I’m currently doing, is trying to promote members from each of my clubs, but my hope ultimately is that I can connect with as many people as possible.” said Tupou, who is a part of Asian Students Association (ASA), Black Student Union (BSU) and the Hawaiian Islanders Club (HIC).
Along with promoting, the club is currently focusing on fundraising and community projects. “We want to show people that we’re more than just a club,” Tupou said. “A bunch of our members will be getting involved with the Community Unity Club to assist with community projects. We want to give back to the community and city of Whittier, while at the same time spreading awareness about who we are.”
The Rugby Club doesn’t conduct any formal meetings, but they can be found on the lawn of the Upper Quad on Tuesday and Thursday evenings starting at 4:45. Tupou also said to talk to him, Delgado, or Gregorio Verdugo if anyone has any questions about the club. “I’m usually pretty easy to find, I stick out like a sore thumb,” he said with a laugh. The club is hoping that they’re building something special, and they believe it could be huge for the future of the school if interest continues to rise.