Men's rugby players start high school team
Polk County Lost Boys gives local athletes a chance to play organized rugby
According to junior Joseph Boyd, Western's men's rugby team has been trying for about four years, to found a high school team. "It was always an idea that got kicked around," said Boyd. This year, the idea finally came to fruition as the Polk County Lost Boys began their first season in the middle of February as an affiliated member of Rugby Oregon. Despite never having had a team before, the Lost Boys finished 5-1-1 in their inaugural season, eventually finishing third in the state's Division III level. The team is a conglomeration of athletes from three high schools in the area: Central, Sprague and Dallas. Most of the players are from Central, however, as it is easier for players from the Independence high school to regularly attend practices. "Mostly, it was word-of-mouth," said Boyd of recruiting players. He explained that Aaron Shinkle, an assistant football coach at Central, had ties with Western's rugby team and was able to talk directly to many students at Central. Boyd took on the head-coaching duties for the Lost Boys, holding two practices a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5 p.m. "I've never been a head coach before," said Boyd. "Being a head coach, it's different than being an assistant coach." The junior had coached previously, helping with Pee-Wee football teams, for example. But he explained that there are numerous aspects of being a head coach that often get overlooked, such as "making sure there are enough water bottles at practice." Along with the unexpected challenges come unanticipated benefits. Boyd explained that, because of Rugby Oregon's higher-than-average standards, a certified athletic trainer and a certified referee were supplied at every match. Rather ironically, the Western team itself is not supplied these luxuries at its own matches. "It's just kind of funny," said Boyd, a USA Rugby-certified coach. "It's a safety thing and it gives the parents [of the kids] peace of mind." Beyond just giving back to the sport and giving high school athletes the opportunity to play, the relationship between Western and the Lost Boys serves as a recruiting tool for the Wolves. "The connection is huge," said Boyd. He went on to explain that there are "10 All- Star kids coming to Western [next year]." Boyd acknowledges that, although he does not see recruiting as his main role, "every once in a while I'll be like, 'Hey, Western has the tuition promise' or 'Hey, Western has this or that.'" The players from the Lost Boys that go on to play for Western should be well-acquainted with the Wolves' style as Boyd incorporates the same plays and calls used by Western's squad. He did, however, install a "blitz defense," a style of play not used by the Wolves. Its implementation was obviously successful, as the Wolves only lost one game in the regular season (a 15-0 defeat in the club's inaugural game against defending state champion Battleground). The Lost Boys dropped their first-round playoff game to eventual champion Newberg before winning the rest of the way, good enough for the bronze medal. "My goal was to win," said Boyd. "Right after that, I wanted to teach them life lessons through the sport of rugby. It's just exciting for me."
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