Rugby rumbles back into Steamboat Saturday |

Rugby rumbles back into Steamboat Saturday

The Steamboat Springs Rugby team kicks off its summer season, playing at 1 p.m. at home Saturday at Whistler Field.
Joel Reichenberger

2014 Steamboat Rugby schedule

June 21 Steamboat vs. Breckenridge

June 28 Steamboat vs. Grand Junction

July 12 CowPie Classic Tournament in Steamboat

July 19 Steamboat at Aspen

Aug. 2 Ski Town Tournament at Missoula, Montana

Aug. 9 Steamboat vs. Glenwood Springs

Aug. 16 Steamboat vs. Vail

All home games are at 1 p.m. at Whistler Field in Steamboat Springs

— The hard part, Steamboat Springs rugby coach Julian Bistow explained, isn’t getting new athletes to join the team.

The hard part is getting them to come to the first training session.

“A lot of them are apprehensive about coming out,” he said.

Once they’re there, however, people tend to be hooked.

“A lot of the players take it upon themselves to recruit friends they might meet at the gym or in a softball league, and they’re bringing their mates out,” he said. “The word of rugby is spreading nicely.”

He and the returning veterans of the Steamboat side managed to get plenty of newcomers out for a practice this year, and in turn, they have plenty of new faces on the squad, who are joining a veteran team that’s eager to start its season at 1 p.m. Saturday at Whistler Field in Steamboat Springs.

“I’m super impressed,” Bistow said. “These guys have played high school or college sports, and they are used to training, to doing the hard work. They learn things pretty quickly.”

Carving a rugby player from, say, an American football player, isn’t an automatic task. The most important skill to teach newcomers is how to tackle. Players coming in from football, where they’re protected by pads and a thick helmet, tend to tackle with their heads.

That’s simply not an option on the rugby field, where players wear nearly no protection. The tackling has to be done with the shoulders and the arms.

“We lead with shoulders and protect the head,” he said. “I won’t put any new guys on the field until I see them tackling consistently in practice.”

Fortunately, this year’s squad allows Bistow and the 12 rookies time to work. With a total of 36 players on the team, its bigger than it has been, and better, Bistow said.

“We’ll be very strong, really strong,” he said.

The first plank to that argument is the return of one of the program’s best players from the last decade, Chris Baumann.

Baumann has joined the club only sporadically in recent seasons, making it for the CowPie Classic whenever possible between stints playing in Australia and elsewhere around the globe.

He’s back this summer, however, and eager, especially for the 40th anniversary of the CowPie Classic, Steamboat’s treasured home tournament set this year for July 12.

For some, summer is Steamboat Springs is as defined by Saturdays at a rugby game, cold beer in hand, as much as it is any hike or bike ride, and this weekend, those people will get to dive back into the seasonal rite.

Those people will get plenty of opportunity to spectate and celebrate this season. Thanks to a series of cancellations last season, Steamboat has four home games and only hits the road in the region once, to play at Aspen on July 19. It plays at home this Saturday against Breckenridge, June 28 against Grand Junction, Aug. 9 against Glenwood Spring and Aug. 16 against Vail.

It also travels Aug. 2 for the Ski Town Tournament at Missoula, Montana.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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