Quick Takes on Ohio Rugby

Everyone has an opinion on the state of rugby in the Buckeye state. Take a look at some quick picks of what some of its most influential members have to say.

Taylor Howden on the importance of the Ohio College All-Star team:

"Experience will add value to [players'] respective club sides that they return to and continue to make our region better. It won't happen with one game or two games, but over time as we make strides and are able to get multiple matches per year. Couple that with All-American call-ups, then these players know how to cope with pressure and have a bit of experience when they get picked for higher honours. It's both development for the player and the sport in America."

Marina Mullins, player for the Brunswick Valkyries and U24 Ohio Elite Team, gives advice to young women looking to maximize their time withe the sport of rugby:

“Play a lot of rugby. Go to every one of your home club’s practices, make every game. Go the extra mile and go to all the rugby camps and all the tryouts you’re able to. You never know what you’ll be able to learn from the wide array of coaches, who you’ll be able to meet or what teams you might be selected to play with. You never know where you might end up.”

Jason Forro, Forwards Consultant for Mentor Boys High School Rugby on the evolution of the rugby scene:

"The Ohio rugby scene is awesome. I've personally been on it for 25 years and you always see something new and special.  I've gotten to see the game evolve right in front of my eyes. It's a much more refined game today."

Jamie Sheehan, Head Coach of the Perrysburg Girls' High School Rugby Team, on the importance of advancing the girls' game in the state:

"It’s important because, in Ohio, there are few girls high school teams and those that do exist are spread far apart from one another. It’s important to start a club, to build up the sport, so more competitive programs can start up and there are more opportunities for these girls to play a sport they love. And it’s important to show these girls that anything is possible." 

Hannah Roodhouse, Captain of Denison Women's Rugby Club, on how rugby has helped her through tough times in her college career:

"Rugby has completely changed my college experience. For a variety of reasons, my freshman year had a host of challenges and first semester left me with little enthusiasm for Denison in general. Since joining Denison's women's rugby team, I found a group of strong, intelligent and caring women who lifted me and supported me on a daily basis. I would not be where I am today without this sport or this team. I believe that rugby teaches young women to take care of each other on and off the field. Rugby has taught me to push myself and showed me that I am capable of much more than I believed possible."

Justine Perl, UCWRFC and U24 Ohio Elite player on the importance of Select Side rugby on providing sporting opportunities for young women:

"In Ohio, rugby is a growing sport, gaining more and more attention each year. However, there are still very few high school programs. Girls coming into college either don't know what rugby is or think it's just for boys. I hope that this team can show other young women what a great sport rugby is and how they can do anything they set their minds to."

Garrett Fisher, Head Coach of Denison Women's Rugby Club, on how to improve the women's rugby scene in the state:

"Ohio is special because it is home. It can be improved by finding more dedicated coaches and administration because many of the women's programs are un-coached and those programs hinder the growth of leagues and teams that are looking for competitive games."

Jamea Haughn, Head Coach of the University of Findlay Women's Rugby team, on long-term rugby coaching goals:

"My number one long term - eternal - goal from my work as Coach of UFWRFC is to teach each and every member I coach how to be an independent rugby problem-solver and decision-maker."

Bryce Pitney, Head Coach of the Findlay Renegades, on players' on-field responsibility and ownership of execution:

"In rugby, more so than other sports, the players learn to take ownership of the game. There's no coach calling in plays and stopping the game. The players have to see and react and - based on coaching and practice - have the know-how and ability to put themselves in the best position possible to execute."

Justin Puccetti, Backs Captain for John Carroll University Men's Rugby, on the importance of chemistry in a successful rugby team:

"The biggest key to our success was our compatibility. Maybe ten to 11 of our starters have been playing together for the last three years, so we have really developed a chemistry and a trust. We are also very close off the field and get along very well. I think the rugby just kind of fell into line behind that, because you can’t have a good team if the players don’t like or trust each other and don’t work well together."

Jennifer Waltman, Co-Founder of the Mahoning Valley Women's Rugby Club, on the benefits of rugby for girls and women:

"In my experience, the benefits for women involved in a rugby club are immeasurable. If you ever doubted yourself, rugby knocks that right out of you - literally. You find out you are more resilient, more determined, braver, bolder and a lot tougher than you think you are - or that people tell you you are. Yes, you may come home bruised and so sore it makes leg day look like a skip through the park, but you survived and you find that you can't wait to do it again. You've grown from the experience, and it gives you a bit more confidence in all aspects of your life. Your teammates, and fellow ruggers from other teams, tend to become some of your best friends.

Being involved in a rugby club has you forge bonds and friendships that are some of the strongest I've found. The most important part of being involved in a rugby club is the lesson in teamwork. It teaches you that sometimes you HAVE to rely on others. It's a brotherhood/sisterhood where if you don't have trust in the abilities of your teammate then you will not succeed. Some forget that this is a TEAM sport and while, yes, you can have a few that are faster or stronger; at the end of the day it takes ALL of your combined efforts to win the match."

Stephanie Snoeberger, multi-time Midwest Thunderbird player on playing for the Midwest Thunderbirds:

"The opportunity to play with the Midwest Thunderbirds this summer, honestly, means everything to me. I have worked so hard on and off the field to get to where I am. I work three jobs, while being President and going to school full time with a 3.3 GPA. Rugby is the one thing in my life that I do for myself because I love it. I worked very hard for this opportunity and was honored and excited that the hard work paid off."


Stephanie Snoeberger, multi-time Midwest Thunderbird player on the rugby culture:

"At the end of the spring season my senior year, my father had passed away. Every member of the DARC women's team showed up to my Dad's viewing in jerseys. This was my turning point. This was when I knew that rugby was going to be my escape, my passion and my life. The amount of support you get on and off the field is amazing. I will never be able to repay DARC for the incredible support and motivation."


David Carr, Head Coach of the Toledo Junior Celtics on coaching a high school rugby club in Ohio and how to keep rugby's growth going:

"The growth is showing in Ohio and seems to be going in the right direction. Having been a part of the state 15s playoffs, I have seen the growth in fans and they have been run with great integrity and timeliness."

Financial reasons are primary in growth, just as the entire sport endures. Our area, especially, is seeing great growth; and with news that BGSU may be doing a free camp in March will only increase the word about the sport. More colleges embracing rugby and stepping up like this would be huge for development of this level, just as Rookie Rugby has strengthened those teams who have started the fifth through eighth grade touch and flag leagues."


Paul Holmes, Co-Owner of Tiger and Tiger Academy on the importance of cooperation and collaboration within the state when trying to elevate the state of affairs in Ohio:

"I think it has to get back to high level representative play within the territories," he said. "Many players don't get seen, and some of the structures make it very unrealistic for players to be able to travel to games consistently. We also need open collaboration and less egos."


Bob Borgerding, founder of rugby in Dayton, Ohio, talks about how he has seen the state of rugby change during his 45 years involved with the sport and how his team has remained relevant:

"The game itself is so much faster than it was back in the 60s, 70s and 80s," he said. "We used to play station-to-station rugby, where we would play to get set pieces and then try to dominate those set pieces - scrums and lineouts. Now it is more of a fast-break game, where you need to dominate open play. For our club, we see more athletic players than we once had and a great attitude among those players to learn the game."


Hennie Pieters, Head Coach of the Jets, on the effects of rugby in his youth:

"I obviously love rugby and the highlight of my school year, every year, was the rugby season which, inevitably, always felt like it was too short."


Dr. John Bergfeld, the man who brought rugby to Cleveland, on the spirit of rugby and its advantages over other sports:

"The spirit of rugby is that it's a sport played for the players," Bergfeld said. "One of the tragedies of football is that you work very hard, play the game  and you immediately go home - college and pros. I played football in college and I only know one person I played against, and that's because he happened to be a doctor. Everywhere you go you meet rugby players."

Steve Landes, Head Coach of the Columbus Castaways, shares his thoughts on the rugby life in the state of Ohio:

"At a club level I have played in DI and DIV," Landes said. "The rugby is what you make of it, but if you're not having fun at least one day out of the week with rugby you are doing it wrong. . . I've seen friendships fostered and strengthened among and between any color jersey in the spectrum, from the lakes up north down to the borders of West Virginia and Kentucky, all while representing Ohio rugby."

Douglas Sheuler on building relationships with rugby:

"There is something about the rugby culture that naturally brings players together, more than any other sport I have ever been involved with, rugby players form a special bond that goes will beyond the pitch and carries on well after the last whistle is blown."

Philip Payne, Head Coach of Ohio State University's women's rugby team, on the fragile future of rugby in Ohio:

"I am very nervous for our future. The disintegration of high school teams in Ohio will be our downfall," he said. "Cleveland seems to have the right  formula now, but Columbus has fallen apart - zero girls teams and a few, if any, boys teams. The same goes for Cincinnati. We need to spend all of our energies starting high school teams and then work downwards and create age grade camps, teams etc. If we don’t rectify the high school rugby tailspin, we might be in a lot of trouble. However, there are bright spots - Cleveland high school teams and the Tiger Academy in Columbus. We have teams that are doing fine, but we need to push our players and clubs to get out in the community and start teams."

Stephen Miller, Head Coach of Medina High School's men's rugby team on how to take the rugby community and take it to the next level:

"The state of Ohio has some of the best college and high school rugby there is to offer in the Midwest," he said. "Unlike other sports, the camaraderie between sirs, coaches, players and alumni is like nothing I have ever been a part of. I think if all the coaches challenged themselves to look beyond the program they are coaching, our sport could quadruple in popularity and size."

Jaime Cleary, Head Coach of the Saint Joseph Academy Jaguars on what could be done to improve the state of rugby in the Buckeye State:

"We need younger programs," she said. "I get calls from parents looking to put their fifth-and-sixth-grader on a team but they are really few. They need to facilitate these interested kids and have someone committed to running this younger league. Coaches get stretched thin running multiple teams." 

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