The last frontier: the place of rugby in America | Sports
EL SEGUNDO, CA – On a quiet street filled with upscale apartment complexes, warehouse and startup space, sits an indescribable building that looks like the countless others surrounding it. There is no distinctive sign, no signage hanging on the outside that identifies it. It would be easy to walk past without even noticing what you missed.
While the exterior is unremarkable, what’s going on inside this building is more exciting than it looks. It is the seat of the Los Angeles Giltinis, Major Rugby League (MLR) the most recent addition of. Team operations are almost entirely self-contained, with sales and marketing services just steps away from the team gym, locker rooms, coaches’ offices and even a state-of-the-art coffee bar. The space is small but growing, reflecting a bigger movement – rugby is finally here in America, and it’s starting to take off.
“I think the potential for the future of rugby in the United States is almost limitless,” said David Grunfeld, director of business operations for the Giltinis. “We have seen with our team, there is a desire and a demand for people to come and watch rugby and have fun watching professional players do it. All the pieces are there.
The Giltinis are entering their second season with MLR and have already met with success by winning the Ileague championship in their inaugural season. The team compete at the Los Angeles Coliseum and are committed to getting as involved as possible in Los Angeles – and bring rugby with them.
Rugby is finally taking root, but it took a long time to get there. The United States may be the craziest sporting country in the world, but where some countries have focused their laser dedication on singular sports, the United States is supporting hundreds professional, collegiate and amateur teams, in almost every sport imaginable. America has proven its willingness to devote time, energy and copious amounts money on athletics, but with almost every other sport factored in, why isn’t rugby one of them?
The necessary aspects all seem to be there: Rugby is a fast paced contact sport that remains exciting with many changes of possession, athletes are touted as being the toughest in the world to take hits and tackles without the protection of guards or helmets and the game uses rules and stats that are easy to follow once you know them. In fact, American football developed from the rugby roots, which means most Americans should be familiar with the basics – or at least be able to pick it up quickly.
In the modern sports landscape obsessed with advanced statistics, rugby offers a refreshing change of pace: there are only a few categories of statistics that matter to every player. Where other supposed team sports can focus on individual performance, rugby is actually focused on the team. Together, these ingredients should have the makings of success, but America has historically been slow to embrace it.
In addition to the technical side of the game, rugby has developed a unique culture over the course of its rich 200-year history. It is now one of the the most popular sports around the world, both to play and to watch. According to Rugby World Cup, almost 10 millions people play rugby all over the world, from his hometown in England to rugby home in Oceania and almost everywhere in between. In many ways, rugby has influenced the ensemble cultural identities, and helped put smaller nations like Fiji, Tonga and Samoa on the map for good. However, what really sets it apart is that for millions of people, rugby has been more than a sport. It’s a lifestyle, and the values of the game have become cornerstones for the people who cherish it most.
These values include respect, integrity and, most importantly, community. Spend time in rugby oriented circles and this fact becomes immediately apparent.
“If you get involved in rugby, you’re going to have a new group of people who are going to care about you and that you are going to care about,” said Grunfeld. “There is a social component to rugby that you don’t get when you’re involved in other sports. It’s almost like an integrated package … I think it’s such a unique and cool thing which is a main reason for someone who has never heard of this before [to get involved]. “
Those sentiments were echoed by Alana Gattinger, the Giltinis’ director of rugby and business operations, as well as Giltinis forward Adam Ashe.
“It’s like a small family. Every rugby club you go to, it’s just really tight and that’s a cool thing. So I think a lot of people, you know, young people who haven’t found their place in other sports, I think they could really find something that they like in rugby. So it’s really cool to see people trying it out, I would love to see more people doing it, ”said Gattinger, who joined the squad after two World Cup trips as a member of the World Cup. Canadian national team staff.
“Rugby has values that have been around forever – a few hundred years, maybe even more. Respect, discipline, hard work, community, camaraderie, ”said Ashe, reflecting on her childhood playing rugby at home in Scotland. “Rugby has certainly been the biggest contributor to my own value system; how I view the world and how I treat people, how I generally interact with the world. Rugby has a lot to do with it.
A few kilometers from Giltinis headquarters, another team is making progress in promoting rugby in its community. Rugby has a long history at LMU, with Loyola Rugby in business for over 60 years. Make no mistake, team members are quick to point out that this is just Loyola, not LMU Rugby, as the team dates back to 1958, 15 years before the University merged. Loyola and Marymount College in 1973.
Like many club sports, it may not receive recognition from its college counterparts, but the team has enjoyed success over its long history. It is regularly ranked among the best club teams on campus, and they compete as part of the Gold Coast Conference for Intercollegiate Rugby (GCCIR) against other teams from varsity clubs like USC, UCLA and Cal State Long Beach as well as development academies sponsored by professional teams. The club also attracts both newcomers and veteran players, such as Nick Miller, a major junior in management and the team’s safety officer, who has been playing for nearly a decade.
“I just had some friends in college saying, ‘Dude, you gotta go out and try this. You would be very good, you would have fun. I used to play baseball and stuff, but I started playing rugby and sort of focused on that. I gave up my other sports, ”Miller said. “I focused on rugby. I had so much fun playing it and it’s just a good group of people at the end of the day.
Veterans like Miller are invaluable to the team, which is the first exposure to the sport for many players.
“Last season I think over half of our starters were rookies,” said Wilson Chatham, an entrepreneurship senior and social president of Loyola Rugby.
With just one coach, the teaching responsibility often falls on veteran players to help their less experienced teammates. It’s not the only struggle to keep the team going; with such limited visibility for those outside the realm of rugby, it is often difficult to secure the necessary resources. The team relies heavily on donations from alumni, the conference has undergone tumultuous changes in recent years, and as a club team there are no recruiting opportunities available. However, the passion for the sport runs deep and the team feels confident for the 2022 season.
“I think we have a chance to be really competitive,” Chatham continued.
Ultimately, there are many emerging opportunities for people who want to start gambling. But the biggest draw is that there is a place in the game for everyone. Whether on the pitch or in the stands, everyone is welcome.
“I think in the future it might be the kind of thing where you could go and watch a rugby match on the weekends, like you and your friends go out and watch a rugby match instead of going to see a football match, ”said Meunier.
Rugby is here. It’s accessible, it’s exciting and it just gets bigger. It’s time for America to see what it lacks.