Picking up the slack
The Idaho men’s rugby club finds themselves in a year that is about transforming the way they play and its identity as a whole.
A few weeks into the season, coach Brad Laplante is shaping his new club as this marks his first full year as a coach. With a young team comes many new challenges, but his hopes are high and he believes he can mesh with a brand new group of rugby athletes.
“Last year’s team was kind of a circle. They had a bunch of senior players and everyone was going out and there wasn’t really the group transition where everyone picks up the slack,” Laplante said. “These guys take a more team approach than a circle approach, because they are actually embracing the new guys, everybody hangs out.”
According to Laplante when he came in to coach last year’s team, he was confronted with a group that had already implemented their position on the team and change was not going to come easy. Having been on the coaching staff of the Washington State University Rugby Club last year, Laplante knew what he was getting himself into.
This year many of last year’s players are gone, and in their place is a group that Laplante acknowledges has some things to learn, but he also comes with an attitude to learn.
Part of that new attitude comes by the way of junior Joey Meade, who was just introduced to the game earlier this year.
“Earlier this semester one of my friends came up to me and asked me if I wanted to play,” Meade said. “I miss all the high school sports I played and it is nice to be a part of a team.”
In high school, Meade played football, wrestling and track and said football and wrestling translated to rugby and helped him pick up the game. Rugby is the first club Meade has joined in college, and he said he has been able to adjust to the practices and three hour and a half practices a week haven’t affected his school work.
According to Meade, his one goal for this season is to score a try.
It is not only first timers this season as the rugby club brought back some experience as well, including senior Hunter Olden who discovered the club when he first came to Idaho.
“I started playing when I was a freshman, so four years ago, and I just stuck with it because I really fell in love with it,” Olden said.
Olden has gone from simply being a member of the club to the president this year and is dealing with everything the title implies.
“I’m the president, I’m taking that pretty seriously, having fun,” Olden said. “I think its just more responsibility, so I am more active with the club. The last few years I have just been coming out and playing and just focused on that and now I’m more into the behind the scenes to get the club working well.”
According to Olden there has been a change in the demeanor of the team this year from years past, and while this year’s team experience may not compare with last years, he believes that the skill level is comparable.
The rugby club also faces new challenges as the level of competition they have faced has only improved after going from competing with Division 2 talent to Division 1.
This level of talent has led Laplante to increase the workload for his young club as he started the season by scheduling two games a week for the first two weeks.
The fall season consists of friendlies, so there is no harm to scheduling in terms of standings. As they go on, the schedule does lighten up a bit.
On Oct. 13, the club competes against Central Washington, and according to Laplante there may be some extra pressure for his team going into the game.
“Central Washington’s head coach is also the National Team college coach, so they are really good,” Laplante said. “It’s also a chance for players to show off their stuff to that guy.”
The following week they will travel to the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference 7’s Championship, which will have the team playing seven at a time instead of 15, which is also be the style of play at the Olympics. The club will have two more matches this fall, including their final match at WSU on Nov. 10.
Jacob Dyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org