By Jeff Praught | Dugout Chatter
Fall is finally upon us, and for those of you who are not necessarily into the most traditional American sports like basketball, football, softball, or tennis, there is a great alternative sport out there that may be just what you are looking for.
The San Diego Armada Rugby Club (SDARC), our city’s gay-inclusive rugby team, offers year-round opportunities for matches, practices, beneficial cardio, and world-famous socializing — nobody parties like ruggers!
The SDARC celebrated its 10th anniversary this past April, and has just begun moving into its preparations for the 2016 season. The club competes in the Southern California Rugby Football Union, which holds a 10-game regular season that begins in January and lasts into April. Playoffs follow for qualifying clubs, and the SDARC competes at the Division III level.
To prepare for that season, the SDARC starts holding full-contact practices twice a week at Robb Field in Ocean Beach. These practices are held on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 – 8 p.m., and represent the best time for new players to get involved in the sport. They also hold touch rugby games every Sunday year-round from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Freedom Park in Balboa Park.
“These October practices are ideal for [newer players interested in the sport] because we focus more on passing and catching drills, as well as getting our cardio in order, before moving on to the more physical aspects of the game,” said club secretary James Ellis.
Essentially, the club members gladly teach newcomers the basic skills needed to compete, before getting into the more challenging things such as scrums and learning new rules.
“We welcome people year-round,” Ellis added. “If someone wants to come in February or the summer, we definitely focus on development at any time during the year.”
The club’s next few months will be busy, preparing for the aforementioned 2016 season. Preparations will include a couple of “friendlies” (matches that do not count in any official standings) against the Division I Aztecs Alumni team, as well as the current UCSD rugby team.
In addition, the SDARC plays in the annual “Rucktacular” tournament, which will take place this year on Dec. 5 in Los Angeles. This event features the gay-inclusive teams from Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Once the season starts in January, the club will host five home matches and play five more on the road; the furthest they travel is to the northern Los Angeles area. Most opponents are considered “straight” teams, but the sport of rugby is evolving so quickly that more gay athletes are playing on these teams as well.
When the season concludes in April, the majority of the team gets right back on the “pitch” (the field), with more non-contact practices throughout the summer. They also prepare to participate in various Rugby Sevens one-day tournaments in the area. Rugby Sevens is a different style of game, with seven players on the pitch instead of 15. It is a higher-paced, less-physical game that really challenges your cardiovascular stamina. For those who may recall, Petco Park played host to the international Rugby Sevens tournaments for a few years, and the action was incredible to watch.
Participating in any sport means that there is a cost associated for membership. At first glance, rugby might seem to be pretty expensive, but allow me to explain how the following costs are really a good deal.
All players are required to obtain an annual $75 membership from USA Rugby. This provides each athlete additional insurance against injury, something you would definitely want. Then there is the SDARC team fee, currently $250 for the year. That price will go up to $300 in the middle of November.
If that fee seems expensive, it actually is a really good value. Not only does it cover participation in games, it helps cover field costs, referees and your jersey. Better yet, the home team in every match hosts a social after the match, where each team parties together. The only additional expenses would involve rugby shorts, cleats, and a mouth guard.
The age range of club members is typically 21, all the way up to the mid-50s. The majority of the players are in their late 20s to mid-30s, but there are several guys playing in their 40s.
Not only is now the best possible time to get involved with the Armada, but it would get your foot in the door before the club prepares to travel to Nashville, Tennessee, for next year’s Bingham Cup, the bi-yearly international amateur rugby tournament. If the name Bingham sounds familiar, it’s because that tournament is named in honor of one of the heroes of Flight 93 during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, gay rugby player Mark Bingham.
Visit the club on Facebook at facebook.com/SDArmadaRFC, or their website at sdarmada.com, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, just show up to the fields during a practice and get ready to run around with San Diego’s wildest party team.
—Jeff Praught is actively involved in the LGBT sports community, having participated in softball, basketball, football and pool as a player, and serving on several boards in recent years. He can be reached at email@example.com.