For those of you unfamiliar with rugby, one naked truth separates it from all other sports. This time-honored tradition is practiced by virtually all rugby clubs around the world: When a rugger (player) scores on his or her first try (in some cases scores the first try with every new team or club or simply scores for the first time) s/he shall remove all articles of clothing and do the “Zulu warrior” run around the field. Those fortunate enough to qualify to do the naked run—named after Shaka Zulu, the greatest Zulu Warrior King—understand that they are carrying on a prestigious tradition.
Rugby is a tough, rough and physical sport with a tremendous amount of bodily contact and with no protection other than athleticism and skill. For this reason, ruggers have a great number of fans and admirers. Although deemed as a rugged sport, rugby is also one of the most social sports where singing, dancing and drinking are not just welcomed, but are also expected. Teammates bond through play, watching one another’s back, and through songs, dance and libation. It’s the rugby brother and sisterhood. There’s nothing like it. One more time in case you missed it: rugby is physical play followed by singing, dancing and drinking. You’re probably thinking right now, “How do I sign up?” Don’t worry. Information on how to join gay rugby is at the end of this article, but please humor me and keep reading.
Around the Bay, San Francisco Fog Rugby Club recently began preparation and practice to compete in the upcoming Nor Cal Rugby Union League and 2017 tournaments around the country. As the only Northern California LGBT rugby team, according to former President Travis Domineck, Fog ruggers include players of all shapes, sizes, ages and sexual orientations. Some of them have already done the Zulu warrior run, a few somehow escaped undetected, and others anticipate their turn.
Fog Head Coach Dany Samreth (affectionately known as Papa Bear) and Assistant Coach Chelsea Cowell (nicknamed Daddy) encourage anyone interested, whether seasoned or novice, to come out and give it a try. Coach Dany tells me that Fog is not just a gay, social rugby team. On the field “our opponents know we hit harder than anyone, and at the bar we can out-drink any team,” he said.
Because rugby is a very physical sport where tackling is the centerpiece of stopping motion and advancement, Coach Chelsea leads drills that mimic and train players to repeatedly fall down and get up. In addition, Coach Chelsea focuses on getting her ruggers into tip top rugby playing shape so the players can endure physical 80 minute games. As Coach Chelsea depicted her practice regimen poignantly, all I heard and understood was if you enjoy being manhandled, being wrapped around from the waist down, being on your back over and over again, and being around thick and strong or trim and fast jocks, this is the sport for you.
A retired competitive rugger who has completed a few Zulu warrior runs, Coach Dany loves the brotherhood/ sisterhood that is rugby. The bond between teammates is strong and unrelenting. Coach Dany recalls the time when one of his ruggers was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His teammates rallied around him, took care of him and his needs, and never left his side. For Coach Dany, that closeness represents everything rugby stands for: hope, love, strenght and togetherness.
If all of the above hasn’t convinced you to give rugby a try, then consider this: Fog Rugby recently completed a successful first-year Pathway program led by Rob Bascherini, a former college rugger and an assistant coach at University of San Francisco. The Pathway program is a six-week step by step program designed to teach the basics of rugby to rookies. This primer course helps new players to learn at their own pace without the pressures of performing around seasoned veterans. Rob was particularly proud of the “no apologies” rule in which no apologies are needed. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone is here to learn. On a side note, Rob sheepishly grinned when he told me that, as a straight rugger, he was groped and touched <censored> much more when playing with a straight team than with a gay team. How does that happen?!
So now you know the naked truth about rugby. Are you ready to make your Zulu warrior run? If not, Travis Domineck has another tradition you can do instead: shoot the boot. Don’t know what that is? I strongly encourage you to contact Fog Rugby, join the team, and find out!
For more information on Fog, please visit San Francisco Fog Rugby Football Club on Facebook or sffog.org
John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.