Sportlight: Rugby club creates new campus culture

Matthew Park

If you’ve seen a group of students sprinting back and forth on the lawn of the Upper Quad, tossing around what looks like an oversized football in the late hours of the day, then you’ve caught a glimpse of the Rugby Club, Whittier College’s contribution to one of America’s fastest growing sports.  

The Rugby Club is unique in that, unlike intramural athletic clubs, the team competes against other schools. While they are still technically considered a club, the members have ambitious hopes for the future. 

“My hope is that one day soon, rugby can become an actual sport here on campus,” said junior Adrian Delgado, who serves as Club President. “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 Club Captain Mafi Tupou hopes rugby will become 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,” said 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 say the interest people have in Whittier’s Rugby Club mirrors a spike in national interest. 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) made its debut as an Olympic sport.  While sevens is the version played at the Olympics, fifteens is what the Rugby Club focuses on.

“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.”

“Honestly, just give it a chance it’s a lot of fun,” added Tupou. “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 recruit members. “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). 

The Rugby club is also 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 p.m. Tupou also said to talk to him or Delgado if anyone has any questions about the club.  “I’m usually pretty easy to find, I stick out like a sore thumb,” said the 6-foot Tongan with a laugh.