Keep On Ruckin

By, Travis Richardson

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

–       George Bernard Shaw

Crouch. Touch. Set. Pusshhhh! Anyone that has ever been in a scrum understands well the importance of organization, teamwork, and persistence in times of competition.

On Saturday, October 4th, our Thunderbird Rugby Club went up to Flagstaff to play in the annual 10’s tournament in which teams from all over the Southwest participate. It has become a tradition that our ruggers have partaken in for many years. It is also notable as being the first major event that all of our new teammates get tested with – within less than a month of touching a rugby ball for the first time ever. With so much experience and learning to be gained, the Flagstaff 10’s tournament has become our annual benchmark for games and practices for the rest of the year.

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We played three games throughout the course of the day. In the first game against NAU, our inexperience showed. People were pulled well out of position on defense, poorly anticipated runs on offense, and careless penalties were made simply out of naivety. In the second match against another NAU squad, we showed a wonderful improvement. Standing on the sidelines, I was stunned at the immediate growth and development the team portrayed. However, our opponent was themselves playing extremely well and ended up getting the best of us in a much closer match than the first. In the third and final game against New Mexico Tech, it was clear that our guys were utterly exhausted. I could tell that everyone knew what they needed to do and where they needed to be, but simply didn’t have the energy to get there and do it. Our lack of experience and training was again made evident.

As rough as the outcome of the tournament was for the team, I wanted to emphasize to our guys the importance of using the experience as a platform for growth. Due to the short tenure of the majority of the members of our team, Thunderbird Rugby is simply a club associated with and accustomed to perpetual change. So while the club that I was introduced to was built around the big names like Steve Preator and Luis Vidal, our new guys will learn from names like Bryce Jahner and Jon Harmon, and then will grow to themselves become one of those legendary names – in only the span of a year. So is our team on track to get back to that level that I was introduced to two years ago? Absolutely not. Through dedication and practice, could our new guys potentially develop the new team to a bigger, better, stronger level? Absolutely.

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Regardless of the outcome, this tournament was particularly meaningful to me, as it marked the one year anniversary of a day that changed my life forever. I’m sure much of the Thunderbird community is already familiar with the story, but for those who aren’t, at this very same tournament last year, October 5th, 2013 to be exact, I suffered a traumatic brain injury while diving recklessly in for a tackle. I was sent immediately to the Flagstaff ICU where the left side of my skull was removed to relieve the intense pressure from rapid swelling. From that day on, it has been a long and arduous road back to school, with more ups and downs than I could even begin to, or care to, reiterate now. But here I am today only a year later, writing this article with a smile on my face because fate thought it could get the best of me. Will I ever get back to that Travis that I used to be? Absolutely not. Could I potentially grow to be a stronger, happier, and more appreciative new Travis? Absolutely.

Our school itself is going through an intense period of change right now as well. We all know the story, but what I’d like to focus on is how optimistic and understanding the student body has remained.  After ASU President, Michael Crow’s visit, the positive energy around campus was palpable. It finally seemed as though we had found a way to again reinvent and revitalize ourselves. Will we ever get back to the old Thunderbird that we all know and love? Absolutely not. Could we potentially surpass our legacy of old? Absolutely.

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All change has its ups and downs. Change is hard, especially when we loved the way things used to be. But as George Bernard Shaw suggests, without change, there is no progress. On Saturday, October 4th, even under such dire circumstances, the level of resilience and determination our rugby club showed was incredible. And that never-say-die attitude is being mirrored at both micro and macro levels through my own continuing recovery and the Thunderbird community as a whole.  That day, regardless of any of the final scores, I was proud to be able to call myself a member of the club, and this school. Our beloved community is simply characterized by constant change, constant growth. If anything at all is certain, it’s that. Keep on ruckin, Thunderbird.

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