Jon Mitchell

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April 21, 2013
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Rookie feels welcome at rugby camp

Apparently, I'm out of shape.

My cardiovascular capacity is at an all-time low. Running three miles wasn't that big of a deal to me 10 years ago, after all.

My legs still feel like Jello. My arms are sore.

And it's four hours later. After just a two-hour workout.

No. I can't keep up.

I wasn't running a 5K, 10K or even a marathon on Saturday. I was playing rugby.

For the first time.

And nobody laughed at me. That was the beauty of it.

The inclement weather in the area forced a lot of high school events to be postponed on Saturday. I found this out firsthand when I showed up to a bunch of sopping wet - and empty - tennis courts on Saturday morning.

But just adjacent to the Glenwood Springs Community Center tennis courts is the ice rink on the side of the hill. And on the side of the bleachers was a banner that read "Glenwood Defiance Rugby Club."

Defiance had scheduled its rookie camp - a pair of Saturday training sessions for people interested in playing this summer - for Saturday and April 27 at Two Rivers Park. Wet and cold conditions moved it to the confines of what is now the roller-hockey rink, where falling on the smooth concrete might be more appealing than the wet, cold grass for some.

So when they started their camp, Defiance did a great job of introducing people to the sport who had never touched a rugby ball in their life. People like me.

"But you had fun, right?" the Defiance coach, Ian "Spudsy" Skilton, asked me.

Yes, I did.

Although, there were quite a few things I had to tackle before I found out how much I need to get on a treadmill regularly.

There wasn't any contact on this day, which was spent covering the basics of the sport. Things like the technique used to pass the ball, along with simply talking to other players on your team, were the principles that were covered.

We moved into some more advanced stuff a little later, like how to protect yourself from an oncoming opponent. It was during those drills - which entailed running circles around some cones and picking up and passing the ball to teammates - when I realized how out of shape I am.

A tank of oxygen would've been nice to have on hand for the next session, when we played keep away.

Yes. Keep away.

That makes sense, actually. Considering how important the lateral is in rugby and how often players have to depend on their teammates, the game pulled from the playground was the perfect tool to teach the sport. Players have to talk to each other, and come help each other when they're overwhelmed by the other team.

That's what got me.

In the first 5 minutes, I was aggressive, going after every opportunity to get the ball. By the 10th minute, I was coughing up a lung.

Spudsy to team: "Who's tired?"

Me to Spudsy: "ME!!"

Granted, I was able to catch my breath and get back into the game, which had expanded from a 3-on-3 game in a small boxed-off area to a 5-on-5 game in a larger spot by then. I consequently managed to jam my thumb, knock a few bigger guys down and dive for - and win - a few loose balls.

Not bad for an out-of-shape, 165-pound guy. I'm sure I could handle the hard stuff, too - i.e., hitting, scrums, etc. That is, of course, after I restart an exercise regimen that includes more than sitting in front of my computer screen.

"You were doing good," Bob Herrell, the Defiance coach who stepped away from the helm this season in favor of Skilton, said to me.

Obviously, I wasn't the only "rookie" there. There were plenty of others.

Of the 12 people who showed up, I'd guess that half of them had no experience playing rugby at all.

What stood out the most, however, was the camaraderie between the players even during the lunch break. That's one of the things Skilton was big on Saturday.

"It's about brotherhood and family," he said.

And for me, even though I was an out-of-shape guy who was trying this for the first time, it was nice to feel welcome.

- Jon Mitchell is the sports editor of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Rifle Citizen Telegram. Reach him at 970-384-9123, or by e-mail at

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The Post Independent Updated Apr 21, 2013 01:33AM Published Apr 21, 2013 01:23AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.