Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bryce Pitney Looks to Help Renegades Rise Again

The Findlay High School Boys Rugby, the Renegades, is gearing up for a season of competition after some time away. The team intends to take the field in Spring of 2016 and face off against other area high school teams. In an effort to prepare the best squad possible, Head Coach Bryce Pitney wants to spread the word about his team and the value rugby can add to potential players' lives.

Started in the Spring of 2003, the high school team has been a small, grassroots operation. Pitney helped start the team with some help from a teammate in the area. Working with a fellow player and a few dedicated players, the Renegades took the field for the first time.

"We initially had about 11 from Findlay and six from the Anthony Wayne area," Pitney said. "Kevin Switzer, a longtime Findlay RFC member, helped launch the team."

Pitney and Switzer fielded that initial team with the help of Switzer's sons and a number of their friends. After that initial season, the Renegades remained a small operation, calling on Pitney's father Dale Pitney to act as Director of Rugby and relying on to current players for the city's men's team to act as supplementary advisors.

Due to a shortage of resources and low numbers recently, the team has been on hiatus for the past couple of years. Pitney hopes that attracting a large crop of new players looking for a contact sport in the Spring will breathe new life into the team. Pitney hopes that players will come for rugby's athletic offerings but stay for the sport's other attributes.

"[Players get] a chance to come into their own, find their role within the team and game and own it," he said. "It allows the athlete to play offense, defense, special teams and even coach - all simultaneously and consistently for two 40-minute halves. Rugby offers contact, physicality, mental toughness and pace at a high level not seen in other sports."

The sport requires players to learn new skills by incorporating knowledge players bring to the table with them. According to Pitney, rugby with the Renegades would, potentially, be the beginning of a lifelong learning process within the sport.

Prior to the team's time away from competition, the Renegades had a measure of success. While competing in the second division, the team was crowned State Runner-Up in 2008 and 2009. The Renegades generally compete during the months of May and June against teams like Anthony Wayne, Toledo St. John's, the Toledo Jr. Celtics and Perrysburg.

The success of the Renegades' players isn't confined to the high school game either. A number of former Renegades found success after high school while playing with men's teams in the area.

"Most of our players, if they continue on, played at the Division III Men's level," Pitney said. "Hayden Johnson is probably our most accomplished alumni as he has won a Collegiate National Title with Bringham Young University last year, splitting time on A side and B side at no. eight."

Pitney's no slouch either. While in college, Pitney played for Bowling Green State University and helped the team take a number of MAC Championships and Midwest Titles. Pitney also made an appearance or two on the national stage with the Falcons. So, to say he knows how to be successful on the field would be an understatement.

Pitney is looking for a certain brand of athlete to help relaunch the Renegades. While experience is a plus, it is not a necessity. There is one attribute that potential players should have in order to be successful on the field.

"The guys that can adapt to new situations and the ones that are willing to learn do the best," Pitney said. "Whether they've played multiple sports or none at all, most athletes who are new to rugby can find success through communication with teammates and giving one hundred per cent on the pitch. It takes plenty of practice and in-game mistakes; but if a player can get over making a mistake and move on and correct them, then they will excel in rugby."

With rugby coming to the Olympics and being shown more and more on TV, the sport has gained notoriety and increased in popularity. The hope is that familiarity, along with the rule changes that have made the game safer, will bring more players to reinvigorate the Renegades.

Players and parents interested in the Findlay area that are interested in trying out rugby and helping the Renegades regain their former success should contact Coach Pitney to get practice and match details.

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