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Biola Rugby continues growth by hosting massive tournament

The first-ever Biola Rugby 7s proved a major milestone for the fledgling club team.   |    Courtesy of Nathany Grace Kadiman​


Junior English major Joseph Ryan does not resemble a typical rugby player. When looking for an outlet for his anger issues as a child in Hong Kong, however, he fell in love with the sport and has not looked back since. As president of Biola’s rugby club, he believes it can also become a great way to spread the gospel.

Biola Rugby 7s

“The club was founded… to honor Christ through the game of rugby and present Christ to other teams,” Ryan said. “So as we play other teams, we stress to show the character of God. Even if they’re another Christian school, we pray with them after. We invite other teams who are not of Christian background to join with us [in prayer] when we do play them.”

Ryan has found a new way to fulfill his club’s mission. He spent nearly a year planning the first Biola Rugby 7s, a tournament comprised of 7-man teams hosted by Ryan and his squad that took place on April 8 at Neff Park in La Mirada, Calif.

The tournament featured rugby clubs from Azusa Pacific University, Whittier College, California Baptist University, Occidental College, Point Loma Nazarene University, Westmont College and University of Southern California. Several spectators also made the trip to take in a full day of rugby.

“There were a lot of people,” Ryan said. “I did not expect that number of people to come. Family friends, parents, good friends from the schools came along to watch and they had a great time. Overall, it was a super fun experience.”

fledgling club

As one of the weaker teams in the tournament, Biola did not win a single one of their three games. Ryan and his teammates, however, are happy with the progress that their fledgling club is making.

“If we can keep [this tournament] going and that becomes my legacy with this club, that would be totally fine with me,” Ryan said.

The rugby club is only five years old and does not enjoy the popularity of Biola lacrosse, the school’s other club sport. Rugby also suffers from negative preconceptions at the hands of many Biola students, which Ryan credits as stunting the club’s growth and visibility.

“People don’t really like Rugby because it’s a contact sport,” said Noah Beckler, freshman biblical studies major and Biola rugby player. “They think that they’re going to get injured all the time, they think that they’re going to get a concussion or something.”

a more brutal version of football

Despite its reputation among casual observers as a more brutal version of football, club members like Beckler and senior biblical studies major Max Beattie insist that their sport is much safer than the way it is stereotyped.

“I would have to say it’s not any more dangerous than football, and in some ways it’s safer,” Beattie said. “For example, in football the way you tackle puts your head in immediate danger because your head has a giant helmet on it. In rugby, you change the way you tackle to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Ryan, the team’s most experienced member, definitely agrees.

“There’s a stigma that rugby is super violent and you’re going to get horrendously injured because you don’t have padding,” Ryan said. “I think that’s wrong. I’m a small guy. I’m 5’6, 130 pounds. I haven’t been horrendously injured at all… I think that’s the main thing, the fear factor. It’s been a hard thing to overcome. The guys who do look at the fear and just say, ‘You know, I'm just going to try it anyways’, they’ve been the most amazing.”

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