SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – The U.S. Rugby team is in Japan prepping for their first match of the Rugby World Cup against England – but right here in Central New York, students at Syracuse University have found a home in the form of rugby.
Every weekday night, SU’s men and women’s rugby clubs arrive at practice. They prepare for weekend matches with various kinds of passing, running and hitting drills. But for many of the players, the sport represents far more than prepping for the next big game. It’s about family.
One of the men’s players, Muzakkir Hossain, is originally from Bangladesh. He then moved to Wales, where he first began playing rugby. He says making the leap across the Atlantic was difficult – but joining the rugby team helped give him a reason to stay.
“Freshman year I was going to transfer out because I just didn’t really fit in,” said Hossain.
But being able to find something culturally significant to him here in America made all the difference.
“It was a piece of home that I was able to bring with me,” said Hussain.
Other international players agreed. Rugby may not have much cultural significance in America, but in other nations like the United Kingdom, where the sport began, it can mean everything.
Joe Jackson is from England, and while he enjoys living in America as a student, he said that being able to play rugby helps him connect with his home country.
“I’d probably struggle without rugby because everything is so foreign here,” said Jackson.
Americans are also getting in on the action. Players on the women’s rugby team told me they do a lot together, both on and off the pitch. From team dinners to living in the rugby house, they have become a family of their own.
It’s a difficult sport to play; and the players also say that they’ve learned lessons on the pitch that they’re able to carry with them into their lives.
“It means, for me, never giving up on yourself,” Ajene Arokium said, “and no matter how hard the sport may be, you can do it and still keep pushing.”