Another sport is growing in popularity on the campus of Emporia State – it’s the centuries old sport known as rugby.
“For me, it’s an opportunity to play in an organized, real competitive sport again against other schools,” said Jason Babb, junior athletic training major and junior lock (his position on the field). “That, and of course the chance to hit people.”
Emporia State has had an organized rugby team off and on since the ‘70s according to sources. The organization was suspended however in the ‘90s until the 2005-2006 season. Although no details were given, many believe the suspension was due to a fire started by the rugby team.
After 50 people signed up at the beginning of the season, the team now has around 20 members play almost every Saturday at different rugby competitions.
Aaron Mejia, senior education major and wide out, said it’s the new element of rugby that has led to such a higher interest in the sport.
“Most people that come and watch now, or want to join, are fascinated by it because they have never seen it before live,” said Mejia, a fourth year player. “Rugby offers them something new that isn’t as big as some other sports, and it’s constantly moving. In football they have timeouts and stoppage throughout; whereas, in rugby it’s continuous with big hits without the pads.”
With rugby not being a sanctioned high school sport in the state of Kansas, both Babb and Mejia admitted there was a little of a learning curve that came with the sport. Babb didn’t play a full season last year, and it wasn’t until a few games in that he started to understand the sport fully. For Mejia the transition took an entire semester.
The team, who is 0-3 on the year, plays in the Heart of America Council in which contact information is available to leaders of a school’s team so that they can schedule rugby events in advance.
Rugby has traditionally been characterized as a senseless violent sport. Sociology professor and former rugby player Giovanna Follo believes that through her experiences this is untrue.
“People have this perception of rugby being an ultra-violent sport in which everybody gets hurt,” Follo said. “In reality it’s much less violent than American football. Rugby is more of a technical sport that focused more on technique so people don’t get hurt. Very rarely did we have a serious injury on the field.”