Rugby Life Lessons

rugby in mudI am trying to walk up the sidewalk, but there are two old Czech women in front of me doing their magic. Old Czech women are capable of taking up 98.6% of any area in which you are trying to walk, including sidewalks, doorways, and steps.

I am frustrated.

While hemming and hawing, an Obi-Wan-ish voice croons “Go forward.” And I listen. Oh, I don’t do anything bad to the old ladies, I just go decisively forward, and soon find myself clear of the babas. Later, I try to place the Obi-Wan source of that advice and realize that it came to me a hundred times a week on a muddy rugby field in Pittsburgh twenty years ago.

Then I go into a nostalgia hallucination involving blood, mud, singing, beer, and boots. When I come back to, I wonder how many other bits of life advice I took in playing rugby. Here’s what I come up with.

Go forward

If you played rugby, especially if you were a forward (which I wasn’t) you heard this constantly. Go forward. Don’t hesitate by running around back and forth. When you are in a rugby game this makes sense eventually, usually after your hesitation has caused you to be annihilated by large scary people a number of times.

In life, you can apply the same principle. You go back and forth, hesitate, hem and haw, and you won’t advance. Once you start going forward and facing the heat, the fear, and the scary things, you begin to make gains. They might be small gains, but they are gains nonetheless. Also, you realize that all those scary things are not that scary after all. So just go forward.

Cheap shots

In rugby, cheap shots, a boot to the head, a bite to your calf, an elbow in your throat, are going to happen. And I…uh, sort of had an….um…reputation in this field. But I sure took them too.

Out here in the world you just have to accept that people are going to take pot shots at you. In the first place, you learn not to take them too personally, and understand that the people giving them are just trying to get what they want. In the second place, you learn to deal with them, get over them, and move on.

Be polite to Authority

The last time I flew back to the U.S I was in a customs line with an officer who was giving everyone a very hard time. He had a flat top, and a scowl that said he both hadn’t been laid in a year and that he hated his job. When he called me forth, I said, “Good afternoon, officer.” He was so taken aback by this that he smiled at me, stamped my passport, and didn’t ask a thing about illegal fruit or farm animal feces.

In rugby you always, always, call the referee “Sir.” There is never a question. Having grown up watching people shout at umpires and referees, it took me a while to learn this rule, but once I did, I never stopped. The person in authority is dealing with a bunch of adversity as well, and if you show respect, you show that you understand and respect their position. This goes for your boss, the police officer who pulls you over, and the guy doling out your two scoops of chunky monkey. Showing respect can make your life easier at times. Plus, you won’t have to answer questions about poop or vegetables.

Be Respectful

I remember a game when an opponent scored a try and showboated around the place as if he had just won the whole game. Except, he hadn’t. But what he did have to do was play another 40 minutes of rugby against a bunch of dudes with questionable morals. And wearing metal cleats. And who he’d just disrespected. I am fairly certain we showed our indignation. You know, a lot…on his face.

Being respectful towards your opponent is a key aspect of any team sport, and it is preeminent in rugby. Showing respect to those around you no matter who they might be is just a good life lesson. Moreover, it makes you a gentleman, or gentlewoman, and shows that you respect your foe’s effort, struggle, and the fact that their rivalry has pushed you to strive to win.

Plus, nobody will kick you in the face later. You know…hypothetically.

Don’t quit

If you have played rugby, you know it’s a game which never stops. This is probably much to your consternation, because after 70 minutes of nonstop play you are exhausted, dirty, bleeding, and there’s usually something in your eye. But the game never stops and you never know when you might be given your opportunity to score. In those last moments an opponent might knock one on and there’s your chance. But you can only make use of that chance if you don’t quit.

The game never stops. You never know when you’ll be given an opportunity, but you can’t take that opportunity if you’re not there. You never know what’s going to happen. So despite setbacks, rejections, or frustrations in your life, just don’t quit.

The other life lessons I learned from rugby mainly involve not falling asleep at parties, how to run around naked in public without getting arrested, and the importance of not forgetting the words to songs.

What about it, fellow ruggers, more rugby life lessons? 

  1. #1 by Andrew Park on June 7, 2015 - 3:37 am

    The most important lesson that rugby taught me was that your “heart” can will you to survive, overcome and succeed, no matter your physical size, athletic abilities and rugby skills. This rugby perseverance will enable you to stand up even when life’s punches knock you down.

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