By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
T.C. rugby may not be the most popular sport at Alexandria’s only public high school, but its coaches and players are passionate about building the program.
Jeff Murphy has been coaching both the boys’ and girls’ rugby teams at T.C. Williams High School for 15 years. In an effort to attract interest in both high school and college rugby, Murphy helped organize the first college rugby fair and seminar of its kind in the region.
The seminar and college fair will take place at T.C. Williams on Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. The event came about from collaboration among the T.C. rugby program, T.C.’s College and Career Center, the Potomac Rugby Foundation and The Rugger’s Edge, the only college rugby advisory organization of its kind.
Murphy said the event is targeted at families with children from eighth to 12th grade.
“Rugby’s an extremely welcoming sport, and it’s a growing sport,” Murphy said. “We always are looking for folks, whether they have experience or not.”
Before he began coaching, Murphy was an athlete himself, first playing rugby in college at James Madison University in 1981. He said he wants to build the T.C. rugby program not only because of his personal passion, but because rugby is one of the world’s fastest growing sports.
“It’s a really exciting time for rugby,” Murphy said. “There’s so many of us that are just so passionate about T.C. rugby recruits members the game and what it does. I mean, the chicken or the egg – I don’t know if good people come to rugby or rugby makes good people.”
The coach’s son, Will Murphy, is a senior at T.C. He began playing at his father’s insistence in eighth grade, before eventually falling in love with the sport and becoming the most experienced player on the boys’ team and a two-year captain.
“I can’t mess around at practice because the coach gives me a ride home every day,” Will Murphy joked. “I think it helps the team, though, because making sure your captain is focused … and aligned with what your coach is thinking, it helps the team grow and succeed.”
He agreed with his father that the program at T.C. needs to grow.
“I would say we’re fairly dismissed in the athletic department,” Will Murphy said. “We don’t get any funding. Many people commit to other sports and don’t see rugby as a viable option as a spring sport.”
In order to recruit more members, Will Murphy said the team has been making announcements, hosting meetings and holding touch games to encourage people to try rugby.
“We could really shed some light on how successful a program can be and how it can actually work in our schools,” he said. “Playing in your school is so much easier and usually cheaper for kids, especially low income families … where they don’t have to pay all the club fees and the uniforms … I think T.C. can be a great first step in moving rugby into schools.”
Angy Alvarado is a junior on the T.C. girls’ rugby team and an example of a player who did not know anything about the sport before she began playing during her sophomore year.
“I really wanted to try something new,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado has also been working to recruit members to the program. As the teams stand now, the girls’ team is composed of about 20 players, while about 25 boys participate, according to Jeff Murphy.
“My goal is to get people to know about it and learn to love the sport just like I do,” Alvarado said, “but I also hope that people get to understand that we’re also a team; we’re not just a club sport, and we try our best at the sport that we’re learning to love.”
Both Alvarado and Will Murphy plan to attend the fair and learn about opportunities to play rugby in college.
“The seminar, it’s the first one in this area,” Coach Jeff Murphy said. “We’re thinking and hoping this is something that will be an inaugural, not a one off thing. We’re hoping to all of us work together to help this thing move forward, because there’s just so much happening in rugby.”