Student-founded rugby club named best new team in Texas

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The Lewisville Tigers Rugby Club practices every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday outside of Harmon High School (Photo by Thomas Cook)

The Lewisville Tigers Rugby Club was named the best new team in Texas by Texas Rugby in June, just five months after being founded by Lewisville High School student Coltin Watkins.

Rugby, a game similar to a cross between football and soccer, is the second most popular sport in the world behind soccer. The game has yet to garner mass popularity in America, and is currently only played by club teams since it is not a UIL sanctioned sport.

Watkins, who had only played rugby with his brothers, got the idea to start a competitive team in February. He hoped that the club could become more than just a collection of students playing rugby together.

“The main reason why I started it was because I kind of wanted a second family.” Watkins said.

With little idea of where to start, Watkins heard from a friend that a teacher’s aide at Lewisville High School might make a good potential head coach for the team. Watkins approached Jason Tucker, who has played rugby for almost 30 years since his freshman year of college, about the possibility of coaching a team. Tucker was willing to coach the team, but Watkins would need to come up with players.

“He came up to me and said ‘I heard you played rugby. Do you mind starting a team?’” Tucker said. “I [said] ‘if you can get me 50 players we’ll start,’” Tucker said

With Tucker on board, Watkins still had to come up with enough players, so he went around school asking friends, athletes, and anyone else who showed interest to join the team.

Denny Pham and Coach Jason Tucker practices pitches. (Photo by Thomas Cook)

“Coltin really was excited to make a team for rugby,” Denny Pham, one of the players recruited by Watkins, said.  “So he just started recruiting, started asking people if they would come out to practice at a certain time and come to the first meeting.”

Before long Watkins had the players needed and a coach for the team. The Lewisville Tigers Rugby Club was formed, but the players still didn’t know much about the game and Tucker had to convince parents that rugby was safe enough for their children.

“It took a lot of convincing from my parents because they’ve seen it on TV,” Tigers’ player Andrew Zellars said. ”[They had] seen how it has been a rough sport, but my coach convinced them it wasn’t as bad as what you see on T.V. and I’ve loved it ever since then”

Tucker and Watkins built the team from the ground up. They had to teach the players what rugby was, how to play it and most importantly how to stay safe in a contact sport. A contact sport with no pads can be dangerous, but Tucker says that proper tackling techniques can reduce injuries significantly.

Tigers players were able to pick up the game quickly, and by this past June the Tigers won their first tournament, The Best of the Southwest Tournament, defeating teams from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

The Tigers have traveled across the state of Texas, participating in tournaments in Austin and San Antonio. This upcoming year will feature trips to New Mexico, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

“I like it. I like traveling,” new team member Grace Bryant said. “I like seeing things that are new and meeting new people. So I’m really excited about it.”

Traveling and playing together has led to a tight bond for the players, many describing it more like a family than a team.

Coach Tucker demonstrates an exercise to Tigers players. (Photo by Thomas Cook)

“We’re all together at the end,” Watkins said.  “Even if you’re crying or mad that you lost the game everyone, just as a team, is together.”

The desire to have a second family was one of the main reasons Watkins wanted to start the team.

Tucker believes that the lessons learned by his players will help guide them after they leave Lewisville High School. He stresses the importance of his players respecting themselves and others as well as being role models in the community.

“Rugby you go out there and you play and you’re hitting each other and after the game you go out and you shake hands,” Tucker said.

The Lewisville Tigers Rugby Club season will begin at the end of January, but the team will be traveling to Norman in December to take part in scrimmages.

Being a Lewisville High School student is not a requirement to join the Tigers, and anyone wishing to join the team can contact Coach Tucker through the Tigers website at lewisvilletigersrugby.club.

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