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Norwalk Spear

Norwalk Spear

The Norwalk Rugby Club: Empowering Students to Follow their Passion

Ryan Handley
Wade Bedwell (left) and Matthew Handley play during a game this rugby season at Fort Dodge High School. The rugby season starts in March and lasts for 10 weeks including seven game weeks.

Although Norwalk High School does not offer rugby as a school sport, this has not stopped Norwalk students from participating in rugby at a competitive level.

Along with volunteer coaches and active fundraising, The Norwalk Rugby Club serves as an opportunity for students to play rugby and compete with other teams around the state

Fundraising to Meet Their Goals

Wade Bedwell, Norwalk junior and third-year rugby player, said because the rugby club is not a school-sponsored sport, the team has to fundraise in order to meet their goals.

“You actually have to go out and fundraise and earn money,” he said. “You have to get support from more people.”

Keegan Johnson, Norwalk junior and third-year rugby player, said the team has come up with numerous ways to complete this fundraising.

“Can drives are a big thing we do for fundraising, but we also set up outside of Fareway,” he said. “Usually we sell Hy-Vee cards.”

Tyler Stanford, Norwalk junior and third-year rugby player, said the team also finds fundraising success going door to door.

“We go around to businesses around Norwalk,” he said. “Business to business selling rugby balls.”

Stanford said that in addition to fundraising, the club has to find their own places to practice, and people to be involved.

“You have to rent out the facilities you practice and play on,” he said. “All of the coaches are volunteers, so they have to find time as well.”

Overcoming the Challenges

Bedwell said one reason why he believes rugby is not included as a school sport at many schools is because of the perceived danger.

“Many people probably think it is dangerous, and think that it is worse than football or other sports, but it’s actually not,” he said.

Stanford said this perceived danger ends up giving rugby a poor reputation.

“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about rugby that people see online, and then think it’s true for everything,” he said. “Like, ‘it’s football without pads,’ but it’s totally different, and hitting is totally different.”

Johnson said rugby still requires players to overcome many challenges within the game.

“The physicality, it can be challenging,” he said. “You never know what you’re going up against. It could be a 300 pound guy, or a state champ wrestler, or it could be a guy who weighs 100 pounds.”

Johnson said something challenging about rugby beyond the physicality is the commitment.

“Accountability and being there, because there’s nothing stopping you,” he said. “It’s not a school sport, you’re not going to get suspended if you don’t show up. You just have to be there and put in the work. You’ve got to make yourself better, no one will do it for you.”

Stanford said rugby also requires quick decision making on the field.

“All of the positions are different, so physical characteristics are all different,” he said. “We have to be able to make some tough decisions pretty fast. All the teams have different challenges, like players, strategies, and you got to prepare for those that week.”

Playing on the Home Field

Johnson said the team doesn’t often have home games, so being able to play at the Norwalk Warriors Stadium this season quickly became a favorite memory.

“My favorite moment was playing in the stadium,” he said. “It’s just a familiar space. It’s kind of weird, but it is cool, weird in a good way.”

Bedwell also said this year’s home game was his favorite moment, as it was an important experience for the team to get to play in Norwalk.

“Having our first home game, that was pretty big,” he said.

Stanford said being able to play at the field wasn’t just important for the team, but important for the community around them.

“It’s important for our community, because we actually get more people from Norwalk there,” he said. “And kind of get the word out about the sport too, because it’s not very big in Norwalk.”

Beyond High School

Being a club sport, the rugby club may provide experiences that will allow players to prepare for rugby beyond a high school level. Johnson said the club has encouraged many opportunities to better the team’s skills.

“Things like being able to take rugby to the next level, if that’s something that interests you,” he said. “Tyler [Stanford] and Bryson [Chapman] have done select sides through tryouts and stuff like that, but also getting to know college coaches and learning about programs beyond high school.”

Stanford said his experience with the club has opened up the potential to apply it to his life after graduation.

“I think I am kind of undecided on what I want to do right now, but rugby is definitely an option I am considering,” he said.

Bedwell said he hopes to play at a college level after high school.

“I would hopefully like to go play at Iowa State if they offer me,” he said.

Johnson said he plans to follow in his older brother’s footsteps, who has played rugby at UNI.

“I think I’ll play at UNI, or at least give it a shot for a year or two,” he said. “My brother’s played there and a lot of family friends, so it’s something I’m interested in.”

Making Memories

Bedwell said being a part of the Norwalk Rugby Club has allowed him to meet new people beyond his friends on the team.

“I’ve always been friends with a lot of the people on the team,” he said. “But I’ve gotten closer to everyone on the team, and some people that I would have never talked to before that are playing, I am now close with.”

Stanford said rugby has allowed him to become closer with the people around him.

“I’ve gotten closer with a lot of the rugby guys, and I’m very glad for that,” he said. “I wouldn’t have had that outside of rugby.”

Johnson said his teammates help to make the game worthwhile.

“I just like the group of people,” he said. “I think they’re fun to be around. It’s just a good time to play the sport.”

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About the Contributor
Taylor Stanley
Taylor Stanley, Editor
Taylor Stanley is a senior at NHS and editor for The Spear. Stanley is a second-year journalism student, and has been published in other publications such as the Warren Town and County News. Outside of the newsroom, Stanley is involved in marching, concert, and jazz band. “Something interesting about me is I have been to six countries outside of the U.S.,” she said. After high school, Stanley said she will attend the University of Northern Iowa majoring in business.
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