There have been several rugby clubs at Belmont over the years, but none have been able to make a lasting impression on campus.
The latest version of the club, founded during the 2014 fall semester, is hoping to change that trend and establish itself on and off the field.
The club’s first year of existence has seen the team join an official collegiate conference and a focus on drawing other students in through social media.
Junior transfer Brandon Ward has been one of the leaders for the club since coming to Belmont in the spring. Ward played rugby in high school and at the University of Iowa.
Ward took over as club president in the spring and hoped to use his experience to lead the club.
“It came to my attention that we needed some better organization so I took over as president,” said Ward. “We joined a conference starting this year, the Dixie Conference. It’s a good start.”
The Dixie Conference consists of 20 college clubs including Murray State, University of Northern Alabama, Tennessee Tech and Western Kentucky University.
The conference is divided into a champions division and a challengers division with the best team in the challengers division swapping places with the worst team in the champions division at the end of each season. Belmont begins the season in the challengers division.
Joining an official conference was one of several moves Ward made to raise the profile of the club.
A big point of emphasis for the club has been drawing people in through social media. Junior public relations major Karen Licudine has been helping the club in that area.
“It starts with gaining likes every day and spreading the word,” said Licudine.
The club has seen an increase of interest recently and is looking to recruit more players as the season continues, said Licudine.
The club currently consists of 21 members, but anyone can join. Ward hopes to recruit more players because of the high need for substitutions in a physical game like rugby.
“We’re always looking for more people, and anybody can play it,” said Ward. “It’s a great game; it’s easy to learn and it’s a fun environment.”
Rugby was created in England during the 19th century. The rules of the sport are a combination of the physicality of American football and the constant action of soccer.
While rugby can be physical, the rules of the sport help to reduce the number of injuries to competitors, said Ward.
“Rugby is actually safer than American football. You can’t tackle above the shoulders, and you can’t lift people. You have to wrap them up and tackle them fully to the ground,” said Ward. “There are very strict tackling rules in rugby.”
The club’s first home game is Oct. 17. Home games are played at the Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center.
Ward is hopeful that the recent efforts of the club will draw an audience for the club’s home games.
“I’ve gotten some verbal commitments from students, and I’d like to have as many as possible,” said Ward. “Not many people know about rugby; so, I’d think it would be a good experience for people to learn about it.”
The club has a Facebook page, Belmont University’s Men’s Rugby Club, for anyone interested.