“We’re a much better team.”
Although this statement may seem vague and simple, it perfectly sums up how coach Ben Dictus feels about the Pacific rugby team he has worked to build over the past four years.
Dictus was approached by several students four years ago, asking him to begin the campaign for a rugby program at Pacific.
By that point, Dictus had around 15 years of experience playing the sport, four of which he has been a player for the Oregon Rugby Sports Union, and four years spent playing in various clubs throughout the state of Ohio.
Dictus has observed rugby growing in popularity recently with high schools both locally and in his home state of Wisconsin, so the possibility of bringing it to Pacific was both new and exciting.
However, Dictus did see possible roadblocks.
“Having never coached the sport was a reservation,” explained Dictus. “It is much different playing alongside 20 people than trying to get 20 people to accomplish one task.”
Not to mention, there was the obvious reality in the back of Dictus’ mind that, “things cost money.”
He was concerned about where the team’s money would stem from because rugby would not initially be considered a varsity sport at Pacific.
But after gathering interested students and using personal funds to get the bare necessities “organically,” as Dictus referred to it, the rugby team was able to receive funding from the College of Arts and Sciences Student Senate as a student club.
This year is the team’s first as an official club in Pacific’s athletic program.
But the title is not nearly as important as the growth Dictus has seen his players and the overall team make throughout his time coaching.
“We used to win because we had good athletes,” said Dictus. “Now we win because we have good rugby players.”
Dictus explained that in the club’s earlier years and even today, many of the players were football players.
The transition into a different contact sport was difficult, explained Dictus, because players had to get acclimated to a new type of hitting; wrapping your arms entirely around your opponent to bring them down rather than fast, hard hitting.
Football’s style of tackling is far more dangerous in rugby, a sport where players do not wear helmets or shoulder pads as football players do.
“It was particularly tough in the beginning because we had one guy who knew what he was doing and the other 15 to 20 had football backgrounds,” said Dictus. “And most of the people had no basis for comparison other than the rugby they had seen on TV.”
In order to make sure that the players were using the appropriate techniques before they truly played, Dictus spent the majority of the beginning practices teaching the basics. When that knowledge was paired with the proper equipment and the organization of having an actual team and set practices, Dictus said he has truly seen his team make improvements.
One of these areas of improvement has been the club’s ability to communicate in a setting that is, once again, far different from football.
In rugby, players are nearly always behind the ball carrier and, therefore, need to constantly make their teammates aware of their position on the field and in relation to the ball carrier.
This requires constant yelling between team members on the field.
For now the Boxer coaching staff will focus on recruiting players for next year’s squad.