Rugby: Newest Club Sport at Menlo College

Rugby: Newest Club Sport at Menlo College

New sights and sounds fill Connor Field at Menlo College this spring as more than 20 students embark upon honing their skills as members of the newly formed Rugby Club. After one week in, head coach Gene Mountjoy, who boasts nearly 20 years of rugby coaching experience, is teaching an enthusiastic group of Menlo students the finer points of scrums, rucks, and tackling.

“Club sports are an important part of the Menlo athletic experience and I am so pleased that the rugby team is up and running so quickly,” said Menlo College President, Richard A. Moran. “I predict this team will do great things.”

“The enthusiasm of these players is just amazing,” said Coach Mountjoy. “They are seeing it as a fun challenge. The big thing for me is building the program based on the joy of playing rugby.”

Mountjoy, is a native South African whose coaching experience has taken him from Boston to New York and throughout California. He noted that the sport’s camaraderie and sense of family top the list of benefits to the rugby culture. Couple that with the fact that “anyone can play the sport as long as they can run with a ball and tackle,” and you have the makings of something special and memorable.

Menlo College Rugby will operate as a student-driven, student-run club sport with hopes to begin competition in the fall of 2015. At the start of the second week of training, 20 students, both male and female, have signed up to learn to play Rugby. Mountjoy hopes that through increased recruitment and retention efforts from the current team members, 30 or more players will join the action by next fall.

“Our goal is to have a program up and running to compete in seven-a-side games in the fall – and to be competitive,” noted Mountjoy.

The fact that the majority of players are starting from scratch serves as more of an advantage than disadvantage according to Mountjoy. “The best thing is we can build the program on good principles. The challenges are obviously learning a new sport in a very short amount of time, but we are doing it the right way.”

In the most recent study of changes in high school athletics, rugby was identified as the third-fastest growing sport in the United States. Correspondingly, rugby has seen rapid growth and adoption among small colleges in the Bay Area. The National Small College Rugby Organization currently features eight different schools offering club teams in the area, and is an organization that Menlo hopes to join in the near future.