by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
There is tough, and then there is rugby tough. Rugby players are often times assumed to be tough just because they play the game, but my experiences have taught me otherwise.
In America, the stereotype of a rugby player includes being tough, but this automatic inference is not often true. Not everyone who has ever pulled a rugby jersey over their head has demonstrated the toughness that they are credited for. I will attempt, for this discussion, to identify some of the key components of being rugby tough.
Being rugby tough means being highly disciplined on and off the field. On- field discipline includes running straight with the ball in hand, staying on side, and not giving away silly penalties. On-field discipline appears when players have focused well during training and therefore understand their role and responsibilities in attack and defense within the team’s patterns of play. Off field discipline is performing workouts when you don’t really feel like it, or bypassing appealing social outings that interfere with your high performance lifestyle. Being discipline isn’t anything unusual for athletes, but also shouldn’t be assumed. Discipline is a character trait that is at the core of being rugby tough.
Being physical at the right moments in matches is rugby tough. Rugby allows athletes to impress their physical will upon the opposition countless times during a match, something not all sports allow for. For example, in basketball you can’t make too much contact with the player in possession of the ball; and in football, play stops once the ball is blown dead. Rugby provides countless opportunities to play hard but fair. Rugby tough players don’t coast or walk during matches. Players who are rugby tough minimize or completely eliminate coast moments during matches. To play relentlessly is to be rugby tough.
Some of the toughest men I have played with have been physically and mentally able to perform at an incredible pace for however long was required of them. Only those who are rugby tough can consistently respond to the demands of the game.
Rugby tough requires an attitude that is unique to our game. Rugby it isn’t a sport for everyone to begin with, and to be rugby tough ups the ante. A rugby tough attitude goes beyond the good old fashion “stick to it-ness” that all sports share. New players to rugby either admire this attitude and strive to emulate it or don’t get it. There is nothing in between.
In every match there are moments where nothing seems to be going right, when assignments are missed, and possessions turned over. The continuity aspect of rugby forces players to regroup and redouble their efforts on the run. With no time outs available, the individual players must each possess the ability to make assignment adjustments and keep on playing with a high degree of determination if they want to be considered rugby tough.
To be rugby tough requires players to be highly disciplined, physical and smart. These players always compete with an “over my dead body” attitude.
Strive to be rugby tough.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand (Bay of Plenty), the U.S. (The Old Blues), England (London Harlequins), and Wales (Pontypridd) for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
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