A club team of nearly 30 students from both Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools in Ahwatukee have taken to a new sport, showing a little-known trait of camaraderie in the notoriously rough international sport of rugby.
“It’s pretty cool that we have (Mountain Pointe) students come out and put on Desert Vista jerseys because they just want to play,” said assistant coach Giles Tipsword. “It’s a cool thing for both schools.”
The team just completed its first regular season, winning seven out of nine matches, also making it to the state finals recently with three other Valley schools.
While just three current members on the team were familiar with rugby before playing, Tipsword said the team’s fast success and instant brotherhood is a testament to its abilities among different grade levels.
“It’s one of the few sports where a lot of interaction amongst teams happens off the field,” said Tipsword.
He explained that a tradition of the sport — which first sprouted in the United Kingdom in the 19th century — is that hosting team, win or lose, shares food or drinks with the opposing team and socializes after each match.
“It’s the camaraderie of it,” Tipsword said. “You’ll see these guys hitting each other hard during the game and then when the final whistle blows, that changes.”
This summer, head coach Alema Fitsemanu will branch out to coaching a girls team in time for the Tempe Sevens tournament on April 27. Thunder Rugby will also be running during the summer for the tournament hosted by the Tempe Rugby Club.
A regular season girls club team for rugby is also in the works, though the boys team is just getting started.
With goal posts similar to football, the object of the game is to get the ball into the end zones and touch it down for a “try,” or touchdown. Though the game has a rough demeanor, some statistics show that rugby’s injury rate is around the same as basketball.
As the first rugby club team in Ahwatukee Foothills, Tipsword said he thinks it’s a step in the right direction for local students to give them a variety of sports.
“It also says a lot about our administration’s willingness to embrace new ideas and new sports, this is a new avenue for kids.”
For more information about the team or how to join, visit htosports.com/teams/thunderrugby.
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