In a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill, rugby is described as “a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.” This fast-paced sport, well known for both its physical and social aspects, has returned to Sherman after a 26-year hiatus, thanks to the initiative of coach Adam Ashcraft, a former rugger and Sherman’s director of continuing education.
The team’s first home match will be Saturday, September 22, at 2 p.m. at Pride Park on the Sherman campus (2020 Springfield Road in Spartanburg) against seasoned competitors The Columbia Olde Grey. The Sherman College Rugby Football Club is part of the Palmetto Union of men’s teams and will play three seasons: fall, spring and summer. The club has six scheduled matches in the fall season and looks forward to the support of the Spartanburg and Sherman College communities; Ashcraft believes fans will enjoy watching the physical nature and the constant action of the sport.
He is enthusiastic about the club’s first season. “While The Sherman Pride may lack the experience that many of our opponents have, we are training hard and expect an exciting season,” Ashcraft says. “Most of our players have never played rugby before, but all of them have latched on to the philosophy and passion of the game, and we can’t wait to take the pitch.”
After proposing the resurgence of Sherman rugby to Sherman President Jon Schwartzbauer, D.C., and the board of trustees earlier this year, Ashcraft officially started the program back up in March with much excitement from the college community and 100 percent administrative approval. The team has been practicing all summer.
“It’s more than a game, much more,” Ashcraft says of the camaraderie and the fraternal aspect of the sport. “I wanted to bring that community back to Sherman. It’s a philosophy of enjoying life to its fullest. When you go to a rugby match, people are laughing, smiling and really enjoying themselves, including and especially the players on the pitch.”
Ashcraft knows this from experience, having played rugby for 15 years, beginning as a high school senior in 1982 in Alexandria, VA, then moving on to college play at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (where he served as captain) and Florida State University. He later played with teams in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Atlanta and Richmond, as well as nine years in Knoxville, TN, finally ending his career as a player in 1996. He is certified as a level 200 coach through USA Rugby.
Spartanburg chiropractor and Sherman faculty member Dr. Kevin Power is also an integral part of the resurgence of Rugby at Sherman, having played fullback on the college’s original team in 1978 and now serving as backs coach.
While he acknowledges the challenge of molding a team that includes many inexperienced players, Power says it’s a task he knows will pay off. “I am immensely proud of our young men and the effort, energy and enthusiasm that they are bringing to the game,” he says. “I believe this team will be a great rallying point for the campus community and that they will be tremendous representatives of Sherman College as we travel to compete against other teams.”
Admission to the game is free; refreshments and Sherman rugby t-shirts will be available for purchase. Local companies sponsoring The Pride include Southeast Sports Chiropractic (the official Sherman Rugby Team chiropractors), RJ Rockers and Nu-Way Lounge and Restaurant.