Last Friday night, the Hoggies made the familiar treck to Highland Park to play a familiar foe: the Southern Methodist University Mustangs. But while the opponent may have been familiar, the atmosphere and faces on the field were quite the opposite.
The match marked the first of what the rugby team is calling a “developmental league,” an exciting and innovative development in a longstanding tradition here at the University of Dallas. Instead of the usual veterans pinning their ears back against their biggest rivals, the match from Friday night featured a more eager, baby-faced team (although, their rugby beards may deceive you).
In an effort to promote an increased retention rate among freshmen players, the veteran leaders of the team decided this year to enter into a developmental league, joining SMU and at least three other opponents from around the area. Joining the league, while unconventional, may provide a new solution to help address an old problem — giving the younger guys playing time and experience while still managing to start the veterans.
Senior rugby president, Luke Goveas, sees the developmental league as an excellent opportunity not only to solve an old problem, but also to expand the rugby community in a positive manner.
“The rugby team has sort of gotten into this pattern,” Goveas said. “Every semester, especially in the fall, we’ll get a ton of guys out in practice, and then they won’t get any playing time in the game and they lose interest because they feel like they’re not going anywhere.”
This suggested solution seems to be fixing the problem, especially in a year where an unprecedented amount of players came out for the team. Goveas noted that the issue of retaining players is not a new problem, reflecting upon his own freshman year to provide an example. If a developmental league had existed then, Goveas believes that things might have been a little different.
“Probably a couple more [players] would’ve stayed,” Goveas said. “But our senior class is unusually small to begin with.”
While maybe only one or two players have stuck around from Goveas’ class, it is easy to be optimistic about how many freshmen might stick around due to the new league. Many of the players and fans expressed their excitement regarding the opportunity to participate in a developmental game. When asked about the game, freshman Anthony Hierro responded like an old vet, happy about the team’s performance, but still open to future growth.
“We were with them the whole game,” Hierro said. “I thought we played well but missed a few key tackles that they capitalized on.”
The game was played in quarters rather than halves. In the first quarter, the Hoggies held their own well, having tied towards the end. They were a little lacking on organization because they had not had much practice time.In the second quarter, they began to give up points because SMU put in their more experienced players.
Goveas lauded the freshmen for their toughness.
“The freshmen were very physical — something you can’t teach,” Goveas said. “There were definitely some big hits made, and the freshmen got pretty excited about it.”
Even the fans enjoyed the experience, despite the fact that most of the team’s veterans watched from the sidelines.
Although the final score was not exactly worth noting, Goveas indicated that SMU had chosen to send out some of their more experienced players early in the game. For the time being, however, the young Hoggies have lots of reason to be optimistic regarding the future. Having a lot of freshmen is one thing, but getting a lot of guys to stick around and learn to play together as a team is a whole new ball game.
The team’s entry into a developmental league seems to be an obvious step in the right direction. By increasing the overall playing time of the younger and less experienced players, the team not only grows in excitement but also manages a certain level of enthusiasm expected to last much longer. Many freshmen join the rugby team with grand visions of making an immediate impact on the field, and with the joining of this developmental league, hopefully this bunch of freshmen will be making an impact for years to come.