The entire Elmhurst rugby team relishing in their victory of second place in the state championship.

Photo courtesy of Nick Larma

Elmhurst is switching up the game with a new rugby team

February 5, 2019

While the uproar in popularity of lacrosse, basketball, and especially football persists, a few of Yorks own students decided to take a different route in their sports careers by joining Elmhurst’s rugby team. Although prospering silently, the team has proven its worth time and time again. Now, it’s time for the town to start getting behind them and show more support.

Due to the individualism that Elmhurst’s rugby team has, since they are not associated with or funded by a school or park district, recruiting athletes, sponsors, and fan support can become a difficult task.

“Our coach went out on a limb, went around asking other coaches of schools and whatnot, asking if they would be interested in a rugby program,” senior player CJ Cote said. “I caught word of it on Facebook and we met up in the library, I was the first guy [on the team],”

As the team started to form, both the players and the coaches quickly realized that it was about more than just a game to everyone involved.

“Elmhurst Rugby is in its third year of existence, it was initially set up in the Spring of 2017 by coach Nick Larma to offer rugby as a sport to students in the Elmhurst area,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “The motivation for the club is based on three areas; giving back to the game, encouraging the youth and giving ourselves an outlet to serve the community.”

With former rugby players as coaches, such as Mike McCarthy who originally played the sport in Ireland, the boys are given the chance to see the authenticity in rugby and clearly understand its differences from any other sport, such as football, as many of the boys on the rugby team also participate in York’s football program.

“It’s different physically, it’s more demanding than any sport that I know of,” senior player Danny Dunn said. “You’re literally hitting people and then sprinting to the next thing. If someone’s hurt, we don’t stop, unless it’s life threatening. It’s really physically demanding.”

While not only demanding a lot more from the boys’ bodies than football, rugby players aren’t as well protected either, creating a game that is solely between the ball and the player, which is oftentimes a criticism of American football and its overbearing safety rules (check out Anthony Lapiana’s piece on ThisIsYork.org for more on that topic).  

“It definitely differs physically because you don’t have pads and have nothing to protect you, so you’re out there with just your body and you have to protect yourself,” Dunn said. “You have to be physical enough to outmatch your opponent.”

As grueling and physical as rugby can be, some of the boys express their preference of rugby over football.

“Unlike football, the bigger guys can run the ball and score and it’s nice to be able to do that with rugby,” Cote said.

With a team as passionate about their sport as Elmhurst’s rugby team is, lots of hard work and dedicated time is expected to go into each practice, on and off the field.

“We have a film-study where we get together, eat, watch our game, and then watch a pro-league team and compare the two,” Cote said.

Although hard work is a major aspect of creating such a successful team, as the Elmhurst Rugby team took second place in division three during the Rugby Illinois Championship, team leaders and coaches work hard to emphasize more important things than winning.

The founders of the club believe rugby is a great tool to teach players about the values of hard work, teamwork, and brotherhood among the players,” McCarthy said.

As coaches continue to implement these values in the boys and their games, it’s quite clear how close the team has gotten, an important trait for the team to have as they jump into their new season.

“Rugby is more of a brotherhood than anything. We literally joke around the whole game, before after, or during,” Cote said. “During the game we are all hitting each other, but once the game is over we’re all buddy-buddy.”

Stay tuned to ThisIsYork.org to hear more information about how you can come out and support Elmhurst’s Rugby team during their 2019 season.

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