I had a chance to chat with Club Rugby President Zach Blackmore and learn more about his motivations for playing, the season in general and some of the culture that comes along with club sports.
Jordan Merrifield: Why did you want to join rugby in the first place?
Zach Blackmore: Well, it’s a sport that a lot of my family members have played as both my parents played. My dad especially was very good, and I actually started when I was a freshman in high school. When I found out we had a team at my school, I figured since I had the family connection to it, it would just be something, something I should try and I liked it so… here I am.
JM: Cool, so you played in high school?
ZB: Yeah, this is my seventh year playing.
JM: That’s good, that’s good. How have you seen the club change since you’ve become president, or at least during your time here at Gettysburg. I’m assuming you’ve been playing for three years now.
ZB: Yeah. There’s been more change, I would say, in the last three years than in just the last year. We’ve definitely improved with our play; we also changed leagues after my freshman year, so we play tougher teams. Our records aren’t as good, but our play has improved significantly. The freshman class, my class, has sort of grown up and come into ourselves and the senior class has a lot of good players. It has grown a little bit, it’s still something that we tend to have issues with guys who don’t commit fully to it — who just kind of use it as a hobby, rather than a sport. That’s something that I’ve been trying to change, but it’s difficult to change because it’s inherently in how the team has always operated.
JM: Well, isn’t that inherent to just club sports in general?
ZB: At least for as long as I’ve been here that’s sort of been the status quo. It’s difficult to kind of completely change that.
JM: It’s a culture — a culture of the club sport. What’s it like being apart of a club sports team that has actual support from the school? Like I played club baseball and because there is a varsity equivalent, you basically get pushed to the wayside and you don’t exist essentially.
ZB: It’s nice that we have our own field, and they give us some money. The fact that we have a field is fantastic. It’s one of the nicer ones we play on and you know they maintain it, which it great. They also help us pay for a trainer, since we are required to have a trainer they pay for that and some other things, our league fees which is really nice. Everything else comes through our own club dues, like the referees and stuff, but it’s nice that we have some funding and some backing. The thing that we wish we had was the ability to use the athletic trainers, which we don’t have because we’re a club. That’s not going to change in the foreseeable future, so when we have injuries we have to go through…
JM: Web MD?
ZB: Not exactly Web MD, but we have to buy our own insurance actually, through USA Rugby every year, so if we get injured they do help pay for it, but it’s kind of irritating that you know, the school has these trainers who can take care of you and we don’t have the ability to use them.
JM: Would you say that’s the biggest thing you wish the school provided?
ZB: Yes. I would hesitate to answer that question with that answer because it’s kind of a pipedream and would never happen, but yeah that is the one thing that we’re really missing. And it is different with other schools, as far as whether or not they get to use the trainer and other stuff, I don’t know, but at a lot of other schools it’s a lot bigger on campus than it is here. Like we play Catholic and American who have programs, with a coaching staff, and like 40 kids, so you know it depends on the school.
JM: That was me with club baseball. We would show up like the Sandlot team, with no funding and no set uniforms, and we would play against other teams that had coaching staffs and treated their club team like feeder team for their actual varsity program.
ZB: Yeah, we play schools who treat it as a real sport and not a club sport.
JM: The biggest example of that for club baseball at least, was on our way to doubleheader, we had to go buy catchers’ gear on the way there because we didn’t have any.
ZB: Yeah, I mean you don’t wear a lot of equipment in rugby, but that is a pretty common thing. You get to the field, and it’s like, “Who has tape, who has mouthpieces.” A lot of people treat it as something you pick up and do. And the fact that we don’t get a ton of support from the school does factor into that.
JM: What would be the biggest thing you would hope to see before you graduate in terms of the rugby team?
ZB: I would like to see us make the playoffs in our current division. Freshman year we did make the playoffs in our old league. But, thus far we haven’t been, we’ve been competitive, but we’re on the cusp of being one of the better teams. I would like to see us do it and be over .500 and be a playoff team.
JM: How close were you this season? How many games left? Is it over?
ZB: No, we still have three more games. The one this weekend is winnable, and then the last two are probably losses. Those are Catholic and Loyola. Catholic is 5-0 and Loyola is 4-1, Loyola is also on the road. We are playing George Washington this weekend, it is on the road but it is a beatable team.
Next games: 1 pm Saturday @ George Washington, 2 pm Saturday (10/28) home next to the intramural fields vs. Catholic