Back In The Game
It’s been probably a year since I stepped on an actual rugby pitch, but it always feels the same. A lot of jitters, the feeling that you have never played before, or like you’re going to embarrass yourself and probably get run over. Maybe it’s just me, but ever since I played sports as a kid, I have always had pregame jitters. I get panicky and lightheaded and just start counting down until game time has begun. Once I start playing, that all fades away. But the time leading up to any event is always the most stressful.
I think the jitters double on a rugby field knowing that if you’re holding that ball, you’re about to have a whole team of players charging at you, and if the other team has the ball, you’re responsible for doing the same. The funny thing is, that feeling always ends up being the rush by the end of the game that keeps people coming back, that feeling of having accomplished something you didn’t think you could. Making a huge tackle, running the length of the field, or scoring a try makes you walk off feeling untouchable. As weird as it sounds, getting tackled multiple times for up to 80 minutes and getting back up even more gives you the rugby equivalent of a runner's high.
Two weeks ago, I went to help two of my best friends get moved out of their apartment and also spent all day Saturday playing with their newly founded rugby team, The Blue Ridge Bears. They are a new team but most of the players had played prior to joining. There were two players though who had never played before and were struggling with those same pregame jitters we all experience. They questioned whether they were good enough or what would happen if they missed a tackle, things we all worry about. The only cure for that is going out and playing even when you don’t think you’re good enough. For a newly put together team we went into the day with the mentality that we probably wouldn’t win much, if at all. Then we walked away from the day having gone to semi-finals. The two people who were the newest to the game walked away being named the players of the match.
Truly one of my favorite things about rugby is that you can show up to any tournament and join a team who might be looking for an extra player. Rugby is a team sport through and through. You have to trust your teammates to know they’re going to be where you need them to be and you’re going to have each other covered when one of you gets tackled. Showing up and playing with new people can be incredibly hard but at the end of the day, you leave with a new group of friends, a growing love for the game, and knowing that you’re on your way to a cold beer with a group of people who have the same bruises and sore muscles as you.
Whether you have game day jitters or the first day trying something new jitters, the best thing you can do is get on that field. Take your chances, have some self-confidence and have some fun. You might meet new people and walk away with a love for something new or the continued revival for something you’ve loved a long time. Whether it’s rugby or real life, there are always people with more experience or who have played together and played longer but there’s always a spot for you.