Rugby Season is Here, and Everyone is Welcome to Participate


Coach Tom O'Neill

Pictured are members of both the men’s and women’s 2021 rugby teams.

Guest Contributor, Caitlin Manuel

Emory & Henry’s rugby season starts next week, and both the men’s and women’s teams are working hard and getting excited about the new season.

This year, a lot of new students are joining the teams due to the rugby program’s motto that anybody can be a part of the team even if they have little to no experience actually playing the sport. There are currently six new recruits to the men’s team and eight new recruits to the women’s team.

Head coach Tom O’Neill spoke of his excitement for this season, saying, “I’m just excited to be back playing ball. I love it when we get new people out and teach them how to play the game.”

O’Neill also discussed the ever-growing familial bond the team has built, saying, “I really want people to know that the teams, both men and women, we consider ourselves a family, we are all-inclusive, and we are never going to turn people away. Every member has value.”

Like his coach, E&H senior David Eldridge expressed excitement for the season. “I am most excited to have an actual season. We were very fortunate last semester to be able to play a few games, but we didn’t have an official season by any means,” Eldridge said.

“My personal goals are to really contribute more than I was able to last year, given that I’ve had more experience, to get a better understanding for the game, to make my senior year in rugby memorable, and to further get to know these awesome men and women on my team,” Eldrige continued.

Eldridge also brought up the effect COVID-19 has had on the team, saying, “Only vaccinated people are allowed to join the team. Our coach always encourages us, and we encourage each other, to be safe outside of the game because rugby is a contact sport.”

Both Eldridge and Coach O’Neill encouraged other E&H students to come to the grass field just past the baseball field to watch, or even join in on, a practice. They emphasized that coming out as a potential new member is no commitment to being on the team and is completely to see if the sport sparks interest.

Practices for both the men’s and women’s teams are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and will include ball-handling, contact drills that are limited and controlled because of COVID-19, game plan formations, and walkthroughs.

The first official game of the season will take place at home on Saturday, September 11 against James Madison University.

If you are interested in joining the rugby team, please contact Tom O’Neill at (276)608-1324 or [email protected] for more information.