Rugby Sevens growing fast in Columbia
COLUMBIA - Show-Me State Games are in full swing with a showcase of over 30 sports with competitors from all over Missouri.
Some of these sports take place outside in temperatures that have been reaching upper 90’s recently.
Rugby Sevens is one of those sports. According to worldrugby.org, Rugby Sevens is played with seven players for two seven-minute halves instead of with 15 players playing 40 minute halves like in normal rugby.
The tournament took place on Saturday, starting in the early morning and continuing into the afternoon.
Sean Cox, the Director of rugby for the Show-Me State Games, said that keeping everyone safe in the heat is a top priority.
“This type of heat is oppressive to any sport but to rugby. You're out here but there is no shade. You're running for seven minute halves, full contact, so it can be dangerous,” Cox said.
The event is equipped with cooling fans, plenty of water and ice, medical personnel from University Hospital, referees that are trained in how to recognize heat injuries and a trainer from Missouri Orthopedic, according to Cox.
“That's one of the things that the Show-Me Games directors have stressed with us. We need to make sure everybody here is staying well hydrated by keeping them in the shade when they’re not playing, taking mandatory halftime breaks and allowing them ample time to be hydrated,” Cox said.
Despite the heat on Saturday, the tournament still had five women’s and nine men’s teams.
According to Cox, Rugby Sevens has gained popularity over the last several years.
“Rugby Sevens is the fastest growing sport in the United States,” Cox said.
According to Cox, there has been quite a growth here in Columbia over the last several years.
“We've added our high school team. We've added some youth clinics, along with our men’s team and our women's team,” Cox said. “So we are growing very quickly here in Columbia.”
As more people get interested in Rugby Sevens, more community sponsors want to get in on the action too, said Cox.
“Our involvement in the community and our sponsorship from the community have been a huge part of our success here in Columbia,” Cox said.
Rugby started in Columbia in 1979 with the Outlaws. After a brief break, they returned in 2011, said Cox.
Even in just six years, a lot has changed with rugby in Columbia. One thing is that Columbia Parks & Recreation added multipurpose fields with rugby goal posts, according to Cox.
“I’ve heard stories about guys who play on dirt parking lots turning on the lights of their cars in order to play,” Cox said, “ Fields like this from parks and rec are huge.”
Now in it’s third year of being in Show-Me games, Cox says its participation has helped a lot.
“Our involvement in the Show-Me Games in the last three years has been a big part of our growth here in Missouri, not just Columbia,” Cox said.
As for the future of Rugby Sevens in Columbia, Cox looks to create a women’s high school team, eventually starting a youth club and furthering the current men’s and women's teams to compete in Rugby Sevens Nationals.