Football may be the most popular sport in the country, but for a portion of enlisted soldiers, retired military and anyone else with a passion for competition, there’s another game that rules on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
The Fort Hood Rugby Club provides enthusiasts an opportunity to get out and play.
“I love it,” Capt. Justin Howard said. “It’s one of those hobbies where you feel like a kid again when you’re playing. It’s a great workout, and you don’t realize that you’re getting a workout because you’re running your butt off for an hour and a half.”
The club originated in 1972 and has 72 members that play on teams in the youth, men and women’s division.
The sport was first played at the Rugby School in Rugby, England, in 1823. Harvard and Montreal’s McGill University played in the first recorded rugby game on American soil in 1874, and 26 years later, rugby was included as an Olympic sport.
Fort Hood club coach Dan Chase, a graduate of Killeen’s Ellison High School, first fell in love with the sport when he was attending the University of North Texas.
The 39-year-old said he grew up playing football and soccer through high school, but rugby has its appeal.
“Basically I drank the Kool-Aid and loved it,” Chase said.
The sport looks barbaric on first impression with ruggers going for the ball in and out of scrums while avoiding collisions without the help of a helmet, shoulder pads or any other protective equipment football players use.
But Chase said with proper technique, the game is very safe since there are no head-to-head collisions.
“There’s so much technique involved in rugby, you don’t have the injuries that you do in football,” Chase said.
British army Lt. Col. Simon Boyle helps run the youth program. Both of his children, Harry, 9, and Amelia, 7, are learning the game.
Harry also plays football and Boyle said rugby is perfect for kids because every player has the ability to touch the ball and get his or her time to shine, unlike football where some players can be overlooked.
“It doesn’t matter your size or your shape, you generally get to play rugby, you generally get a chance to touch the ball and score,” Boyle said. “Everybody wants to score, no matter what anyone says. Everyone playing defense would rather be the guy putting points on the board.”
Darryl Breedlove is one of the elder statesmen of the club.
The 53-year-old retired military member competes against players more than 20 years younger than him because of his love for the sport.
Breedlove first played rugby when he was stationed in Germany in 1983, and despite the age gap, he fits right in once the ball is put in play.
“These young guys can run circles around me, but I’ve got the heart not to quit,” Breedlove said. “I love the sport, so as long as I’m out there running with them, it’s somewhat keeping me young.”
Breedlove shares the field with 1st Lt. Mario Scott.
Scott, a former Virginia Military Institute wide receiver, said he first saw the game played on campus, though he didn’t participate to avoid an injury that could jeopardize his scholarship or standing on the football team.
For Scott, there is a difference between going up the middle for a pass in football and getting out of a scrum with the ball in rugby.
“I believe it’s a man’s sport, and that’s why I like it,” Scott said. “You can use your speed and you can use your hitting ability. It’s all of football in one. In college, I could only play one position, in rugby, I can hit, catch, run, throw, do it all.”
For more information about Fort Hood rugby, contact Chase at 949-355-7730 or firstname.lastname@example.org.