Serious business

Tom Springer wasn’t very happy when he found out he was moving to England for his senior year of high school. Springer’s dad was forced to head overseas as a military attorney. But it didn’t take the then-17-year-old Springer very long to figure out the best way to deal with that anger.

“I was thoroughly angry at going in the first place my senior year,” Springer said. “So that played into rugby really well. I got out a lot of aggression.”

At age 32, Springer is now the president of the Olympic Peninsula Sports Union (OPSU), which operates the Kitsap Peninsula Rugby teams.

In his first year as president, Springer said since his overseas experience, he’s always stayed active in rugby.

“I dig it,” Springer said. “I’ve always been a rugby guy, since my senior year. And I had a soccer background growing up. Football, I just didn’t like the stop and go.”

So that’s when Springer turned to rugby, the 15-person-per-side battle that revolves around scoring trys and touchdowns to outweigh your opponent.

Aiding Springer’s return to the sport was the birth of his first son. He said his wife needed an outlet too, but chose something a little more artistic than rugby.

“Basically, when my son was born, I just had to get out of the house once a week,” Springer said. “My wife too. So I did rugby, she did theatre.”

While rugby as a whole seems to have earned the reputation for being a brutally physical sport with high injury risk, Springer said often the seriousness of potential injuries can be taken out of proportion.

“Mostly it’s a good way to stay in shape,” he said. “I’ve gotten minor injuries, but never really got seriously hurt playing rugby. The danger aspect is overblown. It’s pretty much about exercise.”

The Kitsap rugby teams include the SeaWolves (which is the mens team) and the Bulldogs (the youth squad). The youth club incorporates mostly high school players ranging in age from 14 to 17. The mens team is open to anyone 18 or older. The oldest player currently on the team is 48 years old.

The OPSU also operates a women’s team, the Great Dames. Springer said he hopes this summer, when team sizes are reduced to seven, that the women’s team will see an increase in interest.

“The hope is to get together a solid women’s team this summer,” he said. “Then we can use than as a launching pad.”

While teams sizes are reduced to seven for the summer season, Springer said that actually makes the game more challenging because players are having to spend more time covering more of the field.

“You have to be in much better shape for sevens,” Springer said. “The whole summer season is based around tournaments. We’ll usually do five or six, and we host one.”

This summer’s tournament will be Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Fairgrounds.

According to the Pacific Northwest Rugby Football Union Web site, the SeaWolves are 1-5 for the spring season following a 31-17 loss to Eugene (Ore.).

“It was a really good match,” Springer said. “It was a lot of hard playing rugby. And there were some pretty moments on the field, which is good.”

Next up for the SeaWolves is a Saturday match against Bend (Ore.) at 1 p.m. at Gordon Field across from the Fairgrounds.

“Next week should be interesting,” Springer said. “They’re one of the more aggressive and tough teams in the league. But we just got a boat back. That should help us get some guys ready to go bang heads.”

Military members have been participating with the SeaWolves, although a military team is also in the union, the Renegades. Springer said sometimes, the military connection is the toughest obstacle to overcome.

“That’s the biggest frustration right there,” Springer said. “You’ve got your team and you’re looking pretty good. And then a ship gets deployed.”

Participating on the team has given Springer some of his best friends, he said.

“A number of my good friends are current or former ruggers,” Springer said. “There’s a whole lot

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