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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Bethel College Captain Discusses Rewards, Challenges Of New Program

Each year more and more varsity rugby program emerge around the country. It's a great sign of the growth of rugby in the U.S. and only bodes well for the future. One of the new teams is Bethel College. We spoke with captain Patrick Hafenbridle about his team's first year.

TIAR: Why did Bethel College decided to include rugby in it's athletic department?

Patrick Hafenbridle: The school was looking to add 3 new programs for this school year. Rugby was added along with Women's Lacrosse and a Drumline. The school was looking to add a contact sport but football was out of the question due to costs. The former admissions officer for athletes, Nate Hamil, suggested rugby as a substitute and we hit the ground running from there. Nate is now the Head coach of the program.

Take the jump to read more.

TIAR: What were some of the up and downs of putting the team together over the last year?

Patrick Hafenbridle:  Our biggest issue was recruiting the right athletes for the program. Because we are a faith based school, we can't recruit just anyone. Athletes have to know what they're agreeing to by coming here. We aren't a party school. You won't have some of the social aspects of a typical college rugby team here. That being said, because of our backgrounds, the team gelled together instantly. The camaraderie is better than most of us have ever experienced on our prior teams.

Our varsity status allowed us to go after high school rugby players instead of relying on students from campus randomly coming to practice as many teams deal with. It's made putting everything together much easier.

TIAR:  How excited for the campus to have rugby?

Patrick Hafenbridle:  The campus has known about our presence since last spring when we were introduced to the student body. In the past 4 weeks leading up to our first home match, we have been featured in what we call Bethical News. It's a satirical news show that's put on every Friday in front of the entire student body during our chapel services. It's been met with great applause each time. We also hosted a Rugby 101 the night before we hosted a scrimmage with Grace College. We had a large number of students there learning to pass, tackle, ruck, and even scrum. We've got some pictures from the event that I can provide if need be.

Coming from a school where the rugby team was often asked "Is that the sport with the sticks?", Bethel has been completely different. These students and professors all know who we are and what we play. Every day we hear from different students how excited they are to see us play.

TIAR:  What kind of support is there from the student body and the community?

Patrick Hafenbridle:  The students have been incredibly supportive. We've had multiple students come out and volunteer to be managers for the team. This coming weekend the student activities board has agreed to bus out the entire student body to our first match. That's unreal for a new program of any kind, let alone a rugby program.

TIAR: What are you expecting in your first year?

Patrick Hafenbridle:  We're expecting to go out into every match and compete this season. There will be some bumps along the road, I'm sure, especially with a lack of depth at a few positions. I fully expect us to win the majority of our games. And in the games we don't win, we'll at least play it close. We won't be the team people look forward to seeing on their schedule.

TIAR: What are the goals of the team?

Patrick Hafenbridle:  We began this first year in the NSCRO in hopes of building a solid foundation for coming years. That being said, our goal for the season is to make it through conference play in the IRFU (Indiana Rugby Football Union) undefeated. Along the way we also have a match with the University of Notre Dame's A Side. We hope to show that we aren't afraid to play anyone in the country and that we can match up with most teams. Past the conference season, we hope to make a push for Nationals and end up playing in Colorado in April.

Off the field, we're looking to be leaders in the classroom and the community. There's hope that we'll have a couple of Academic All Americans at season's end and that the entire community will know who we are through our efforts with the church and local charities.

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