Rugby Has Heart
June 29, 2017
It all started in 1983 when I transferred to Rutgers as a college lacrosse player and discovered that I was ineligible to try out for their lacrosse team. As it turns out, I would never play lacrosse for Rutgers but I did get a compelling try out for something else.
Early one Saturday morning a loud bang on my dorm room door suddenly woke me from a sound sleep. I opened the door to find a group of strangers asking if I had a pair of cleats.
Blurry eyed and confused, I told them yes, and so began my allegiance to a new game.
When I put on those cleats and walked onto the JV rugby team that day, I had no idea what was ahead. Prior to this, I had not even seen a live rugby match, but that did not stop me from getting on the field.
In that first game, I was playing prop against men that had been playing rugby for 10, 15, even 20 years. I will never forget that day. A prop on the other team nicknamed “Rhino” had a target on my back in every scrum and every ruck.
I don’t know if it was my lack of technique or if Rhino was slightly nuts, but that first game experience was an interesting one. I remember leaving the field with my face bruised and battered but feeling a sense of accomplishment for staying in the game.
In our post-game handshake, I anxiously waited for Rhino and said, “Look at what you did to my face.”
With a smile and not a break in his step he replied, “Welcome to rugby son,”, and that was my official introduction to the heart of rugby.
It was then that I first learned about the unique relationships forged in rugby. Rhino and I squared off on the field but the “Rhino” on the field was much different from the one you’d meet off the field. The dynamic of respect and heart is remarkable. You can go eighty minutes loathing your opponent but the minute the match ends, you look him in the eye, shake his hand and become his friend.
The lessons I learned from rugby have translated to help me in my professional endeavors. I have been working in the financial services industry for nearly three decades and success in this field relies heavily on solid relationships. The encounter with “Rhino” taught me that there are many ways to build relationships with people and that first impressions are not always indicative of a person’s true nature. What’s more important is pushing past that and challenging yourself and others to be genuine and confident in your relationship, especially when you’re on the same team.
I continued to play rugby throughout the remainder of college and it has always held a special place in my heart. I have enjoyed watching the sport grow over the years and I am so pleased that major networks like NBC are now broadcasting live games.
A few years ago, I remember being excited to watch the Collegiate Rugby Championship on NBC and found it fascinating that it was being sponsored by Penn Mutual, a life insurance company. As it turns out, in January of 2017 I became the Managing Partner of Primary Financial, Penn Mutual’s agency located in Edison, New Jersey.
I am excited to help support the continued growth of rugby. Our office is in the process of establishing relationships with local college teams and The Rugby Business Network to help push the game forward in New Jersey.
After 30 years, I feel like I have come full circle and am excited to be able to tie rugby to my professional career. Our office had previously forged a relationship with Rutgers and I look forward to reconnecting with the Rutgers rugby community, the place where it all started for me.