Students gather in a park not far from Desert Vista High School. They don’t use one of the school’s field because they aren’t yet a varsity sport; but that doesn’t mean they don’t work together or work hard.
They pass and kick their oblong-shaped ball back and forth as they warm up. These players are part of the growing sport of rugby.
Desert Vista has a squad which also draws students from Mountain Pointe High School. It’s all a part of the nature of the sport that’s bringing students together and building the rugby community.
“These guys, they give a bit of friendly digging but the boys…it’s a great way to cross those boundaries,” said coach Roger Tushingham.
As the sport continues to grow it’s not only bringing the players together, it’s also bringing their family’s together as well as drawing in families that are more rugby-centric.
They also spend a significant amount of time together off the rugby field as well, hosting barbecues on Sundays that draw everyone together and bond them.
“We just come down here, anyone is welcome,” Tushingham said. “Parents play, girls play…my wife comes out and plays…just trying to get people to understand the culture. We teach…it’s nice to win, it’s important to win but it’s more about the whole culture and that’s what I’m trying to get these kids to understand.”
Rugby’s had a huge impact on my life both sporting wise and family wise and professionally. I’m trying to get these guys to realize that.”
And some of the players are not only building their rugby family but growing into great players on the field. Mountain Pointe junior Malachi Knox, who also is a member of the varsity football team, has received some All-American consideration in just his first year playing the sport.
“It’s a great sport, I love how it is,” he said. “(It is) very active. You’re moving a lot and you have to be very physical, too and very aggressive.”
Knox acknowledges the rivalry that exists between Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe, but also said the players from both schools come together.
“It’s pretty cool how two different schools — two rival schools — can come together,” Knox said. “And play as one on a team to strive for a goal that everybody wants…
We come together on Sundays and play games of touch (rugby),” he said. “(The community) is more prevalent than in football. In football it’s just the players…I think it’s great because we have everybody’s family comes out and most of us have siblings so they’re coming out and watching us play and everything and they play with us, too and learn about (rugby) at the same time.”
Desert Vista’s rugby team made its first appearance in the state championship Saturday afternoon against Red Mountain, considered the top team in Arizona and a rugby powerhouse.
The game didn’t go Desert Vista’s way as the Thunder lost 64-5, but even though they didn’t claim the title, their family remains unbroken, and even former players who have already graduated come back.
“That’s why I came back out here,” said Jordan LeFevre, who graduated from Desert Vista last year after the game. “To be out here and put on the jersey and supporting them.”
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