DePaul Rugby: the experience of running a college athletic club

Two DePaul students stood by a U-Haul van parked outside of the Ray Meyer Fitness Center early on a warm Saturday morning.

Juan Orozco, backs captain of the men’s rugby team, and Katina Calamari, backs captain of the women’s team, were deciding how to fit a set of goalposts and other equipment into the van. A few minutes later Orozco drove the van to Diversey Harbor where he and some members of the club set up a rugby field.

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Freshman Edyta TarczyƄski helps load a van with rugby equipment. [Photo by Christopher Silber. June 3, 2017]

The DePaul Rugby Club is a student-run organization. Players do everything from funding money to renting fields and scheduling games.

“Every DePaul Club has a $5,000 fund from the University,” said Junior  Erik Anderson, who was elected to be president of the men’s team next school year. “We have to apply to use it so we can buy new jerseys and equipment.”

Orozco, who was elected vice president, said renting fields costs varying amounts of money.

“Diversey Harbor costs about $75 an hour. Winnemac, where we played our home games in the fall, only costs $50 an hour, so we saved  $100 over four hours,” he said. “We also don’t have to put up goal posts there, because the park has permanent ones.”

The club has called four different fields home over the past few years. Diversey Harbor is the closest, but the teams have set up as far south as Dan Ryan Woods.

The Pregame

A group of about fifteen men’s and women’s players walked into the park at 10:00 a.m. to set up the field. They had to measure out the field and spray it, and put up flags and goal posts.

They were careful about measuring the field. The games in a few hours were important for the program. It was the day of the alumni game, where current students play graduates. Former players from as early as DePaul Rugby’s founding in 2001 were coming.

“This is my favorite field,” said Anderson. “It’s so close to DePaul. I think having more games here would get more guys to come out.”

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New men’s president Erik Anderson (far left), and women’s president Katina Calamari (middle) help student Tony LaPiana measure out the field. [Photo by Christopher Silber. June 3, 2017]

The women’s game was scheduled for noon, and the men’s game was scheduled for 1:30. The men are expected to support the women, and the women are expected to support the men.

“Rugby does not discriminate,” said Orozco. “The women literally play the same game we do. Same rules, same ball and same field.”

The men’s and women’s rugby teams used to be separate clubs, but they combined a year ago.

“The two clubs used to be separate,” said Orozco. “The reason why we joined to be one club last year was because a more united effort would look better with DePaul and possible sponsorships.”

Obtaining sponsors and seasonal player fees help the team operate. Occasionally, players have to use their own money to host events.

“We don’t have a team credit card or anything,” said Kevin Simoni, the team’s treasurer for the 2016-2017 school year. “When we hosted the Chicago Cup, I had to put $1600 on my own credit card. I wasn’t able to use it for the rest of the month.”

The Women’s Game: Empowerment and Inclusion

Rugby is a physical sport. The physicality is one of the major draws for men and women alike.

“When I was looking for a new sport I decided to try rugby because I was an enforcer in high school soccer and I’ve always thought being competitive and aggressive was an asset, not a detractor,” said sophomore Maya Scanlon-Kimura.

She said the sport is empowering in a way most activities are not.

“My favorite part is definitely the empowerment for women both on the field and off as well as the accessibility of the sport,” she said.  “This team is unique because you’re allowed to come to practice just to learn and try it out – there’s no stigma about what shape or skill level you are.”

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Members of the women’s team converse as they watch the men’s game. [Photo by Christopher Silber. June 3, 2017]

Members of the women’s team praised the club’s inclusivity. The fee to play is small compared to sports like rowing, and practices are usually open to newcomers.

“My favorite part of rugby is how it brings all types of people together,” said women’s president and backs captain Katina Calamari. “My team is amazing and I might not have met them if it wasn’t for Rugby.”

The Men’s Game: Competitive Camaraderie

Current men’s players and alumni walked onto the field before kickoff. Many were joking about old memories, the party after the game, and making bets about the upcoming game.

“The best thing about DePaul Rugby is the brotherhood,” said Erik Espeland, a senior playing his last game as a student. “More brotherhood, less cost, and none of the weird stuff that comes with joining a frat.”

Some students played in high school, and enjoy the competitiveness the team maintains while keeping the game fun.

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Student Jack Stevens relaxing with friends before the game. [Photo by Christopher Silber. June 3, 2017]

“My favorite part about DePaul rugby is just the atmosphere the team gives while having a competitive yet relaxed attitude” said Erik Anderson. “I wanted to continue playing rugby in college. Also I wanted to play with people at my school instead of joining a men’s team.”

Students praise the social aspect of the club, or, as junior Jack DeHaven said, “Smashin heads, drinkin beer, singin songs.”

The students won the men’s game and the alumni won the women’s game, both by close margins. After the men’s game, all the men and women present made a circle and talked about the club, how the teams did this year, and the importance of keeping the tradition of the alumni game alive.

“I have felt so welcomed into the rugby community and I love playing because it is so empowering as a woman to celebrate my strength and power on the pitch,” said senior Claire Sandberg. “DePaul Rugby has been such a great experience and a great space to learn a new sport, stay active, and meet great people.”

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Current players and alumni gathered for a picture after the games. [Photo courtesy of the DePaul Rugby Club. June 3, 2017]

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