Rugby team putting in off-season miles

by David La

Plagued by injury, inexperience and finances, the University men’s club rugby team turned down a postseason bid this fall.
To avoid such a slide when the schedule resumes next spring, coach Dave Finkel and club officers looked into a winter fitness and conditioning program through the University Recreation Center.
“Toward the end of the fall, we talked about how we needed to be in better shape,” Trevor Paulson said. “So we figured if we get some times where everybody can condition as a group, it would be really beneficial to the club.”
Finkel contacted Lisa Carlson, program manager for fitness at the center, about creating a program the team could do on its own. But Carlson knew better.
“I convinced him that from my experience at other facilities in doing sports-specific training, that doesn’t happen,” Carlson said. “You have to have somebody facilitate it.”
The team is trudging through its third week of supervised workouts. The sessions run from 6:30 to 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Rec Center.
Paulson said he wasn’t sure what he was getting himself into with the training.
“The first day was a killer,” Paulson. “I never knew riding a bike could be that tiring. It’s a workout.”
The rugby team is pushed along through drills by two female instructors, of whom Ben Foreman joked, “(they) keep yelling at us. And they seem to enjoy it, too.”
For her efforts, instructor Kris Neely earned the nickname “Sgt. Slaughter.”
“Its always been in a positive tone,” Neely said. “So I’ve taken that to mean we’re doing a really good job of kicking their butts.”
With knowledge of the physical demands a rugby player faces during a game, Carlson still wasn’t sure of the athletes’ resiliency.
“We know that these workouts were going to be challenging for them,” Carlson said. “But they’ve kept showing up. We’ve consistently had 18-20 guys from the rugby team here working out.”
According to Carlson, while the team pushes through exercises both on the stationery bikes and in the gym, fundamental aspects of rugby are being reenforced.
“We do drills that are considered sports specific,” Carlson. “With rugby, we take away the contact and we look at how the game is played and transfer that into drills.”
While the aches and pains of muscles reflect the physical benefits of the workouts, the commitment shown by the team is helping the young group gel quickly.
“There was 10 or 15 rookies on the team going into this year,” Nick Olson said. “This is helping us get to know each other.”
Recalling her days as an athlete, Carlson extolled the virtues of participating in what amounts to a voluntary program.
“One of the biggest things for them is they know who the ones are who have the commitment,” Carlson said. “If they’re willing to pay the money and wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning, they’re committed. That’s who you want to have on the team and play with.
“They know they’re getting better and they can sense it.”

David La Vaque covers football and basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected].