I wanted to hike, but my grand-niece, Aspen, was in town playing rugby and since that is one sport where I've never attended a live game it was a perfect opportunity to mix family with outdoors. Her team from the Glens Falls/Saratoga area was playing in the "Ruck" Cancer Tournament at the Wilderness Park in Deerfield, NY. (I'd never visited the Park before so it was also a good chance to check out the trails.) The tournament was put together by the Uticuse and Utica Klubs (who knew we had local rugby teams?), a mixture of players from the Utica/Syracuse areas, as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
If you have never been to a live rugby game, let me forewarn you before packing up the family and heading out to one. The language is not always appropriate for small children who tend to imitate what they hear! You may be a little embarrassed if they come out with the "F" bomb at Aunt Grace's! It also isn't for those who are prudish about skin showing since everyone - male and female alike- strip to underwear after the game to get on warm, dry clothing. Now, it isn't any more than you would see at the beach, but some people take exception to the showing of underwear. But what you will also see is a whole bunch of people from all over New York, Vermont and Massachusetts who are having a heck of a lot of fun running a ball up and down a field!
I was amazed at the enthusiasm -despite temps in the 40's and wind chill probably in the 20's. The camaraderie of the opposing players was commendable as well. My niece's team was short 2 players so the other teams cheerfully fielded only 10 players and took responsibility for both sideline ref jobs. There was no fighting like we see in hockey games and the first team even offered to loan a couple of players for the second game. Don't get me wrong, these were some serious games and they all played hard! Bodies were being pulled, pushed, tackled and hog-piled, but they always seemed to come up smiling! (As I was leaving I heard one team talking about a player taken to the emergency room with a possible broken arm.) The only time I heard someone complain was just before they were taken down in a freezing cold puddle and the wail of "Not in the puddle!" could clearly be heard above the noise of shouted encouragements from both sides.
Like hikers, the players look forward to the end of the games as much as playing them. They often meet for a few aftergame brews and food to celebrate their win or commiserate in their loss. It was fun to watch and interesting to learn about, however, it seems to be a game for the under 40 crowd and not something I would have ever considered! Due to standing 3 hours watching 3 games in the cold, I never did get to check out the trails at the park. There seemed to be maybe 2 miles of them and what could be seen from the main parking area and playing fields sappeared broad and covered in crushed stone. Instead, I opted to go home where it was warm and dry- the trails will be there another day!
Aspen keeping warm betweeen games