Photograph by Mattias De Los Rios
Rugby is a sport played by many around the world including many players from Berkeley High School (BHS). Despite its worldwide popularity, BHS has yet to provide a team for these players to join. It is left to students to create their own rugby club, in order to play the sport they love.
Due to the lack of school funding, the rugby teams are forced to be 100 percent self run without the luxury of any BHS sports facilities, field, or equipment. As a result, the team must practice in a public park and pay BHS to use the football field for home games. The team also relies on player donations, team-run bake sales, and other fundraisers to cover their funding. Despite all of the obstacles, Berkeley Redhawks girls team co-captain Sophia Killebrew Bruehl stated that none of these difficulties prevent the team from continuing to dominate over other teams year after year and that “the fact that Berkeley High can’t handle the heat we bring doesn’t bother us too much.”
This year, the Berkeley and Alameda teams will be merging together due to shortages of players from both cities. The two will team up to compete against teams from cities such as Danville, Clayton Valley, Chico, and many others. This can often lead to drives up to three hours long, and without the school providing buses, the rugby teams must provide their own forms of transportation to these games.
While the funding of the team brings along many disadvantages, Berkeley Rhinos boys rugby coach Nate Muhler — better known as Coach Bhu — has brought many positive aspects to light. Being an independent sports team, players are not limited by the school they attend, anyone who wants to join is able to be added to the roster. This allows the team and to expand beyond the reach of Berkeley, and “makes for great diversity, camaraderie, and boosts numbers,” says Coach Bhu.
The importance of rugby as a sport can not be underestimated. Given that it is one of the few sports that is mainly the same throughout all levels of play for all genders, rugby can be extremely empowering. Both captains of the girls team agreed that “having a sport where female stereotypes aren’t being enforced makes for an environment where people can be themselves.”
For example, in sports like lacrosse, the differences in the sport between boys and girls are like night and day. Boys lacrosse is highly physical and aggressive, allowing and encouraging contact with both sticks and physical body checking. In comparison, girls lacrosse on the other hand is a much less physical game, making any kind of body checks or stick checks that hit the player result in a penalty. Although both are still very aggressive and fast paced sports, girls lacrosse is clearly much less physical and requires more finesse, and to many players the different rules come off as restrictive and unnecessary. In rugby the game is essentially the same for all genders.
Though funding from the school could no doubt make life easier for the rugby team and provide them with more resources, such as field space or equipment, the organization appears to be thriving on its own. The sport continues to bring together teams that help bond people from all different backgrounds, as well as be competitive and successful on the field every year. Rugby continues to prove that while school support is wonderful, teams are able to thrive without it.