BY RYAN HORD
Two years ago, the coaching staff comprised of Tony Vince, Gary Anderson, and Vince Gross developed a five-year plan to turn the then-struggling team at the bottom of its division into one of the premiere programs in the country.
The team’s fitness training regimen has progressed as well. Previously, personal fitness and strength had been the responsibility of the players. Now, the team has made a deal with the local Man O’ War Crossfit gym where team conditioning and strength training take place. The team is also subject to much more rigorous conditioning during practice. The team runs multiple fitness tests a day until the majority or all of the players can complete them under a specified time.
The team has improved immensely on its recruiting abilities, largely due to the efforts of Coach Gary Anderson who has traveled to many state tournaments in Ohio and Indiana while also meeting with high school players in the Lexington and Louisville areas. Anderson is preparing to travel to Hudson, Ohio where the state finals are being held over the weekend. The team has 7 high school recruits committed to play for UK next season.
At one point last season, the team broke into the Top 20 and was ranked 16th in the nation.
The program’s growth would not have happened so quickly if not for many generous donations given by alumni. Every year, the team holds an event at which the current UK team plays against a collection of alumni players both freshly graduated and those who haven’t competed in decades.
Players have also taken part in many construction projects to help raise the money needed to pay for things such as new jerseys, hotel accommodations and large buses for the longer road trips.
The team is working with the goal in mind of making the play offs this year, a selective group as only two teams from each division make the cut.
“I think it would be a disappointment for us not to make the playoffs this year,” says senior player CJ Leadingham. “Over the past three years I’ve been here we’ve progressed and fine-tuned our game, become a more successful team, a team with better chemistry and at this point there’s no reason why we shouldn’t beat everyone in the SEC.”
Team president Curt Hart said while he found rugby to be a more productive way to spend his time over other extra-curricular activities he found the social aspects to be most beneficial.
“Using it just like any other social club, for the networking, the things it benefits you for. If you want to succeed and want to network well you’ve got to be involved socially. Rugby was a decent way.”
The team’s fall competitive season begins on September 4th at home against the Notre Dame College Varsity program.