Good Sports: Rugby Rises Again
Published Apr 1, 2009 8:00 AM
When he was a kid in Canada, Scott Stewart's father told him that the greatest job in the world was working as UCLA's rugby coach. Since 2004, Stewart, who represented Canada in the Rugby World Cup and played as a professional in Europe, has had his father's dream job.
UCLA Rugby is a club sport, the players are volunteers and neither they nor the program enjoy the perks of varsity status. This influences Stewart's role as recruiter, coach and administrator. He only recruits athletes already accepted to UCLA — some with club/high school experience, some foreign players, others simply beginners — to come out sans scholarship. "I tell them they'll have a great time, they'll work hard with (others) for a common goal and build relationships that will last a lifetime," Stewart explains.
As coach, he knows school comes first. "We work hard after they've done all their homework and studies." And as administrator, he works full time to return UCLA Rugby to its 1970s glory days, when it was one of the top programs in the nation and football players would participate during their offseason. The program then served as a gateway for foreign teams touring the states, and Coach Dennis Storer became the first-ever coach of the U.S. national team. Today, Stewart feels, the program is somewhere in the second tier. "We hope to move up," says Stewart, whose arrival in Westwood came as a result of alumni, including a number of former Storer players, raising money and creating momentum for the club.
Rugby culture — the esprit de corps with teammates and the earned respect of opponents — is why those alumni banded together, and it's part of the sport's appeal. "You battle for 80 minutes and gain the respect of the guy opposite you," says senior blindside flanker Scott Hugo, "but as soon as the whistle blows, you bury the hatchet and go have a barbecue."
Hugo, a Rhodes Scholar who plans to play for Oxford next year, says he’s made friends among teammates and opponents that will last a life-time. "Competition without animosity is the highest calling," he concludes. "I really look at the rugby field as a metaphor for other aspects of life."
UCLA Rugby. Postseason matches scheduled through April and May. Free. For dates, times and locations, call (310) 267-5416 or visit www.bruinrugby.com/viewschedules.asp. For more information on UCLA's scrum stars, visit www.bruinrugby.com.