For Austin Belt, going to school at UMKC meant his days of being an athlete were over. Or at least that’s what he believed before he made it to campus.
His new athletic pursuit started the day he moved into the dorms as a freshman. Belt, now a junior majoring in finance, was asked if he wanted to play for the UMKC Rugby club. He’s now the organization’s vice president and has seen rugby grow in popularity over the past few years.
“Rugby is in the Olympics, and the US team is getting better and it is becoming more popular,” said Belt. “We also are home of the Kansas Blues, who are nationally known.”
While rugby is becoming more popular, UMKC’s team still has trouble recruiting players. Belt has found that enduring myths about the sport still persist.
“People believe that rugby is more violent than football because we do not wear pads to play,” said Belt “There are rules in place to protect the plays such as you have to tackled below the chest and players cannot be picked up.”
That’s why recruiting players is the team’s main goal this year.
“We want to be more active on campus and when we are out, we plan on just approaching people and asking them if they want to play,” said Belt.
When students express interest in joining, one of the first things the team does is give them a demonstration of the rules.
In rugby, a team can only lateral the ball. No forward passes are allowed. To score, a team must make it into the try zone and the ball must touch the ground. This is worth five points. Then, a kick is attempted from where the ball touched the ground. This is worth two points.
“Unlike football where it’s a touchdown, if the ball just breaks the goal line, in rugby the ball must touch the ground,” said Belt. “It is a common strategy to touch it in the centered of the try zone to make a kick easier.”
Typically, play never stops once a game begins and the clock is continuous. The same people play the entire game.
There are two variations of rub, and the UMKC Rugby club plays both. The two variations are termed 15’s and 7’s, referring to the number of players each team is allowed.
The number of players isn’t the only difference, however.
“7’s are faster paced, as the halves are just seven minutes long instead of 20 minutes long in 15’s,” said Belt.
UMKC is a part of the Gateway Collegiate Rugby conference. The team typically plays on Saturdays at Durwood stadium on campus.
Belt said students interested in joining the team should contact UMKC Rugby on Facebook or Instagram.