Glimpse what makes Fort Wayne rugby great

Fort Wayne club holding annual Snow Bowl on Saturday

PHOTO COURTESY FORT WAYNE RUGBY CLUB

PHOTO COURTESY FORT WAYNE RUGBY CLUB

It’s the fastest growing team sport in America.

It requires skill and strength, is fast-paced, gives almost everyone on the opportunity to play offense and defense and this Saturday afternoon you can see it live, up close and personal, right here in Fort Wayne.

Oh, and it’s not soccer.

The Fort Wayne Rugby Club will hold its annual Snow Bowl as a part of the Winterval festival this weekend, giving anyone interested a glimpse into the sport many may have seen on television a time or two and which some describe as a cross between soccer and American football.

It also gives the club, which is growing fast itself, a chance to recruit new members.

“When I started as president, we had around 20 to 25 active members,” said Sam DiFillipo, who became club president in 2010. “Now we’re pushing 60.”

That rise falls in line with what organizations are seeing.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association, a national trade group, dubbed it the fastest-growing team sport in the country and put the number of participants in America at 1.2 million. And youth participation in the sport has doubled since 2010, according to U.S.A. Rugby, the sport’s national governing body.

It’s hard to pinpoint the reasons behind the rise in the sport as well as the local club.

“It’s kind of a smashup of things,” DiFillipo said.

The sport is still not one of the traditional ones many kids learn to play right away, DiFillipo says, which means when people pick it up a little later there are others learning at about the same time as them.

Plus, he continued, it’s a contact sport for adults, so it attracts former football players who may want to relive some of their glory days from high school or college while maintaining their fitness. And for many who want a high level of fitness and competition, there isn’t much which can touch rugby.

Local high schools like Bishop Dwenger, Carroll and Homestead are fielding teams — something unheard of in this area 20 years or so ago. There is also a contingent of women finding the sport — a quarter of the 115,000 registered ruby players in this country are women, according to U.S.A. Rugby.

If you were wondering, there is a Fort Wayne women’s team, as well.

“The women’s team has taken off,” DiFillipo said. “We have a great core of girls, and it continues to grow and get better.”

This year’s Snow Bowl will be the fourth or fifth played as a fixture of Winterval, according to DiFillipo. The game itself dates back to at least the 1970s — DiFillipo said some of the older club members have Snow Bowl t-shirts from the 1980s — and acts as the “sounding bell” for the team’s competitive season for the spring.

It’ll also give the club a chance to show off a game.

“I can tell you on Saturday, you’re going to see a big group of guys having a lot of fun and you’re going to see a lot of friendships being shared,” DiFillipo said.

At the rate the sport is growing, there may be a lot more friendships in the future.

 

Fort Wayne Rugby Club’s Snow Bowl

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Where: Lawton Park, 1900 N. Clinton St.

Admission: Free

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