Berkeley High School (BHS) has a reputation for having unconventional clubs and sports teams. There is a hammocking club, a tea club, and an ultimate frisbee team, which is the best in the nation. Among these standout clubs and sports is BHS rugby. Among both girls and boys, BHS rugby is rather popular, with over 25 players on each team. Senior Camerah Leonard is in Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS) and is one of the captains of the girls’ team, the Redhawks. Leonard said, “Last year our team had literally ten people, and we had been practicing at Ohlone Park with just one coach.” However, all of this has changed this year, and now “we have over thirty players, we practice at Gilman fields, and have three coaches,” she explained. Because rugby is not a popular sport in America, BHS rugby accepts any player, whether or not they go to the school.
They get zero money from the school for things like jerseys and balls. Due to this lack of funding, players are responsible for raising the money.
The sport’s underrepresentation in the morning announcements and school emails has led to a very small number of players. This, along with the team being a club team, means that they get zero money from the school for things like jerseys and balls. Due to this lack of funding, players are responsible for raising the money. They hold fundraisers, and often, the coaches still have to spend their own money on equipment. This same struggle is true for many club sports at BHS. Leonard said, “I think [rugby] does deserve so much more recognition. So many people have a misconception of what rugby is. Many people think it is scary and dangerous and for people with bigger builds, but that really isn’t the case, rugby players come in all different sizes.” She added that after each game, the two opposing teams congregate for a potluck.
BHS boys’ rugby, the Rhinos, is also rather popular, with over thirty players on the team. The boys’ team captain, Theo Frincke, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), said that “having players from all over the East Bay as opposed to just BHS means we have people who really care about the sport, and play very seriously.” Frincke has been playing rugby for BHS since he was in eighth grade. He said, “my brothers basically bullied me into trying it, and then I really liked it, so I kept going.” The main reason for rugby’s fluctuating popularity is due to one reason: it is a foreign sport. Rugby was created in England and became popular in Europe and the South Pacific before it was played in the US. Despite this foreign aspect, both the girls’ and boys’ teams are expecting a very exciting season this year.