Thursday, November 27, 2014

Roots II: Digging Into Dayton Rugby's History

When most people pick up an activity to occupy their time they take up something like stamp collecting or building models, and that hobby usually turns into something that passes their time and creates clutter around their houses. Bob Borgerding, who is easily a piece of living history in the Dayton area, picked up a rugby ball as a means to occupy his time and wound up creating two of the strongest rugby clubs in the state.

In 1969 Borgerding was a football player at the University of Dayton. Unfortunately for his career on the gridiron, he received an injury that ended his time playing football. Fortunately for him, and a multitude of ruggers to come, he was encouraged to try a new sport; and once he did he took it everywhere he went.

"I was encouraged by family members who were informed about rugby to take it up," he said. "So, I started the University of Dayton RFC. After graduation, I played for a few years as player-coach for the University of Dayton. When I was no longer welcome I began the Dayton Triangles RFC, which, after many iterations, is now the Dayton Area Rugby Club."

Borgerging didn't stop influencing the rugby community in his city with the college and men's team, though. He has mentored players at just about every level possible; and the time he has spent coaching at each level rivals some people's playing careers. He coached the men's team for 20 years; established the Wittenberg University rugby club and helped bring together the Dayton U-19 program. Naturally, he spent a few years as a coach for those young players as well. For many, as players and as coaches, time is the ultimate enemy. Time breaks down bodies, brings about new priorities and make tried-and-true tactics become archaic relics. Borgerding has not only found a way to stay active in rugby but he has also remained relevant.

"I believe my longevity is my highlight," he said, recounting his playing days in the front row. "I did play for Southwest Ohio Selects for one year. That system was used to select the Ohio Selects. My coaching highlights include being an Assistant for the Ohio Selects for two years in the early 90s. I was coach of the National Military Champions in 1981 with the Wright-Patterson Team."

Borgerding also coached Dayton to Midwest championship matches in 1994 and 1995, as well as taking them to qualifying berths in 7s in 1985 and 1986.

Not only was Borgerding a force with the older ranks of players, but he helped form a successful high school program in Dayton. At first, he went the traditional route, going through the school system and depending upon their cooperation and support to ensure that teams survived and thrived. After some frustrating and inconsistent years, he and the men's team decided to take matters into their own hands.

"In the mid-2000s we decided that we, as a club, would sponsor U-19 clubs and not depend on schools to sanction an club," he said. "Since we began this model we have been able to field five teams and will begin a sixth in 2015. We have been lucky to have Old Boys who have been willing to head these teams, and as long as we have this support we can continue the success we are now experiencing."

Though he has done a lot of work to establish rugby in Dayton and help it evolve, Borgerding knows there is still work to be done. There are still gaps in the rugby world he sees that need to be filled.

"To improve the game in our area we need to have a closer relationship between the collegiate teams and the city clubs, socials and coaching sessions where there can be positive interactions between these groups," he said. "It is up to the city club to reach out and then for the collegiate clubs to accept and participate."

Borgerding also believes in competition making the relationships stronger, and as he looks in the future he that as Dayton gets a second pitch they can be on the cutting edge of rugby in the state once again by establishing a competition that will bring Ohio teams together. Looking down the line he doesn't see his position with the team changing much either.

"I would like to see myself still running the rugby grounds at Dayton," he said. "It would mean I will have been involved in rugby in Dayton for 50 years. I believe that will be quite an accomplishment."

Coach Bob Borgerding has spent 45 years with rugby in the Dayton area. It is safe to say that without this man there would be no rugby in the area, or at the very least it wouldn't be the strong system that it is now. He started everything from high school up to the men's brackets and ensured it would all be successful, he has coached longer than most have played and has plans to keep his city's rugby strong, at least, into its 50th year - and if he has his way I am sure he would be at the helm well beyond that point.

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