FSU Rugby Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Submission from FSU alum Stephen Wheeler

In the fall of 1974, a pack of disenfranchised athletes came together to form what would be the genesis of the FSU Rugby Club. These young men were strong athletes in their native sports, primarily football and soccer players, as well as road warriors and gym rats. They possessed a wide and varied range of physical and athletic skills, all of which would be tested on the field against their opponents. The one common trait they all shared was a curiosity for a sport they had only heard of from friends traveling abroad, and after playing their first game, they all discovered a fierce enthusiasm for the sport.

Rick Schmitt, a founding member of the team summed it by stating, “We had no idea what we were doing, but we worked hard and taught ourselves, and had fun doing it.”  Similar sentiments have been echoed by succeeding generations.  It is something that almost any dedicated Rugby player will tell: learning, training, winning and losing together builds a level of camaraderie rarely experienced in other aspects of life.

Ask any ruggers, young or old, and they will talk about their favorite memories of the sport always involve traveling to a location with their friends and teammates. “We sang Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’ the whole way home from the match,” said Chuck Moore, a member of the 1993 National Championship team. Paul Rautershans, a wing forward and flay half from the ’83-87 team, said. “[I was] beating Maryland’s number three nationally ranked A side. It was the best day I’ve ever had in sport.” Rautershans also said he loved traveling to new schools and making new friends.

These bonds rarely end at the out of bounds marker of the field, or with the end of college itself. Chuck Schneider from ’83 – ’88 said, “…I still share some of these memories when I with some old teammates for a beer, camping, tailgating or playing golf.”

But more than good stories, Rugby gives players skills, as well as contacts translating well into the real world. Leadership, recruiting, team building, budgeting and coordinating groups of people are all skills that are developed, as well as networks that serve players well into their careers.

It is not unusual for first careers to start out with a hand from an alumnus, for older players with established careers are always happy to lend a hand to new and soon-to-be graduates. By helping the newly minted college graduates they are able to establish themselves, and when they return to their Alma Mater, they strengthen both the school and the team. This way, the bond between players, school and team is strong and all three flourish together.

As it stands now, the team is at a crossroad. After a strong showing two years ago, and making an appearance in the national play offs, the team has lost a great number of its experienced players, the loss of senior leadership has left the teams coffers depleted, and in need of new equipment. Nineteen-year-old fullback Weston Foster summed up the situation saying, “Morale is up and up on the team. It’s a team of full of inexperienced players that are steadily improving themselves.”

It is perhaps most important to remember Rick Schmitt’s words when asked about his opinion of the teams 40th anniversary. He said, “When we started the team all those years ago, we didn’t think about starting something that would be going on now. But it really means a lot to me to see that it’s still going on now.”

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