Rugby family plays, wins together Camaraderie calls yesterday's athletes

August 13, 1993|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Staff Writer

They are a team scrapped together with former football and lacrosse players and even wrestlers. It seems the Chesapeake Rugby Club attracts everyone, but rugby players.

The Chesapeake Rugby Club, however, meshes these athletes every year to form one of the top rugby clubs on the East Coast.

"We get most of our players through word of mouth. A lot of the guys are former football or lacrosse players from Towson State, Loyola and Mount St. Mary's," said team spokesman Chris Schmidt, 32. "It's tough to get the good athletes because for the good lacrosse players you have club lacrosse here. And most of the better football players enjoy trying to see how far they can hit a softball. That's a waste of talent in my opinion."

Schmidt, who has played rugby for 11 years, got hooked himself through word of mouth. "I played football and lacrosse at Towson State, and after that ended a friend from high school talked me into coming to see a rugby match," Schmidt said. "I just jumped in, and loved it. It's a lot less stressful than the other sports."

Even Wade Godl, 42, the oldest active member, converted from another sport. "I wrestled at Washington & Lee, and most of my fraternity brothers played rugby," said Godl, who doubles as the club's secretary. "I went to a lot of their rugby parties. Then one of my fraternity brothers played for Chesapeake, and I went to watch one of the practices. The next minute I was out there."

An aspect of rugby that distinguishes it from other team sports is camaraderie among competitors. "In other sports, athletes don't associate with each other after the match," Schmidt said. "In rugby, you're knocking heads one minute, but once the whistle blows you're drinking beers with those same guys."

The Chesapeake club has existed for 24 years after splitting from the Baltimore Rugby Club and has compiled a record of 352 wins, 271 losses and 21 draws. It is in the top of three divisions in the nation and competes against teams from Washington to New York.

Chesapeake began playing in Division I in 1986 after a merger with the Towson Old Men Rugby Club a year earlier. In 1985, this conglomeration won the Potomac Rugby Club Union Division II title, and earned a right to move up to Division I.

"We were both fielding sides that were so close," Godl said. "So our team captains decided we ought to come together to get into Division I. We did it to make ourselves better, and it worked."

Chesapeake practices twice a week at Orchard Hills Park in Lutherville. The roster usually inflates to 70, but the number drops to 45 by the end of the season with departures and injuries.

Chesapeake's fall league schedule, which runs September to November, features travel to Pittsburgh, Washington and Charlotte. During the spring season of March to May, the club travels more often along the coast because it does not have league games to schedule. Chesapeake, the only Division I rugby club in the area, mainly travels by car pool. Next year, Chesapeake ditches the cars as it travels to Ireland in early September for a three-match, weeklong tour.

Playing hosts to teams from Canada, England, Ireland, Wales and Zimbabwe as well as its tours to Mexico, Bermuda, Canada, the Bahamas and England, Chesapeake considers the foreign exchange a learning experience.

"Although we are one of the top teams in the nation, when we go over there we get killed," Schmidt said. "If our forwards are 6 feet 5, their forwards are 6-7. If our running backs run 4.7s, they run 4.5s. They just have greater athletes."

Chesapeake still has had its share of players compete on the international level. Alex Klinghoffer was involved in last month's Maccabiah World Games in Israel, and Lance French participated in the U.S.A. Rugby East 7's camp in Bethlehem.

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