Rugby clubs around the world know and embrace the phrase, "rugby has a place for everyone." But what does that mean? Our recruitment efforts have made us aware that not everyone knows rugby players come in all shapes and sizes. There are multiple reasons people won't consider rugby, but here are the top three we've encountered: too small, not in shape, and too skinny.
Not everyone will choose rugby (we get that) but don't let your body type be a reason why you don't try it. We introduce you to Casey Koontz, Robert Fischer, and Michael Walker— our "too small," "not in shape," and "too skinny" players.
Casey Koontz AKA Mr. "Too Small"
When I started to play rugby, most friends and family I talked to would say "Oh! That's cool!" but had no idea what the game was. I stood 5'4" and weighed only 140 pounds in my first season of rugby. People grew concerned for me once they learned that I'd be tackling men that were 200+ pounds and much taller.
The larger players seem to have respect when they see smaller guys making an effort to be right in the action and giving it their all. It feels like I get checked on more because I'm a smaller person, but everyone learns fast that I can hold my own. The Sirs (referees) are the only ones that don't show the same concern primarily because they regularly see all different body types on the pitch.
My advice to the small guys is that it isn't an excuse. Your stature can be an asset to any team. We can be quick and evade easier. We can get lower in rucks and scrums than most players. We are feisty people. Go to a practice and test it out. You don't have to play but at least try it.
Robert Fischer AKA Mr. "Not In Shape"
Rugby was always an interest of mine since college, but every rugger I met was remarkably fit. It wasn't till I move back to St. Louis that I met a rugby player who didn't embody the stereotype I held in my head. It was a reality check that you didn't have to be solid muscle to play. Even after two years of being on the team, every time I tell someone new, it still surprises them that a guy my size can play.
Let's be honest. I'm not the fastest person on the team since I stand 5'8" and weight 247 pounds. Running is not my friend especially not right after a scrum. You won't see me running the ball halfway down the field, but I can gain us a few feet of ground by crashing into a defensive line or help maintain possession by defending our side in a ruck. It's an incredible feeling to know that you're helping the team to victory. A few feet on the pitch may not sound like a lot, but if you do it enough times, you'll end up in the try zone.
My advice to the big guys is to own it. Society tells us all the time what they think we should and shouldn't be able to do. Forget that. I don't care if you play only half the game or the entire 80 minutes. You played, and you gave it your best. That's what matters. That's what people are going to remember about you.
Michael Walker AKA Mr. "Too Skinny"
"You? You, play rugby? You don't look like a rugby player." That is a typical reaction when I tell people I play rugby. At first, I was very intimidated since I typically take part in individual sports like triathlons, rowing, and cross-country skiing. I've trained for many sports and what I found is that people do not care if you are big or small, but rather your willingness to put forth your best effort in your pursuits.
It is an amazing feeling after a game when you know you gave it your all and had just as much in the match as everyone else. I feel it bonds rugby players together. Not just among teammates, but among players from different teams, divisions, leagues, and even nations. Rugby is a game played with the heart. At first, I thought it was a nice euphemism, but now I have a much better understanding of what that means.
My advice to the skinny guys is "Go for it!" The rugby clubs I have encountered are very welcoming of people who are new to the sport and want to learn more. Even when I started in the fall of 2015, the guys assured me that I could play even at 5’11” and 135 pounds. Since playing, I have put on about 10 pounds, and I have a lot more confidence in myself both on and off the pitch.