Community Connections - Kalamazoo Rugby Football Club0
In Kalamazoo, fall isn’t just for football. Since 1988, the Kalamazoo Rugby Football Club (KRFC) has graced our community with the game of rugby every autumn. Although combative in appearance, rugby is a lot more than just big hits and lateral passes.
“Rugby is kind of an aggressive sport, but it has an accepting crowd,” KRFC President Andy VerSteeg assured. “We always stress that we are a club, not a team. There aren’t any tryouts, and no experience is necessary. We are very much a group that welcomes everyone including spectators, fans, and new players.
“We practice twice a week and try to work on introducing the fundamentals to any newcomer. That is how we get about half of our players.“
In addition to the competition itself, a big part of rugby’s allure is the camaraderie that it inspires amongst players.
“It is a great way to form a network of friends,” VerSteeg attested. “I started playing rugby at Michigan Tech University and when I moved to Kalamazoo for work, I didn’t really know anyone. I kind of jumped right into the KRFC and within a few weeks, I had a whole team of guys I knew.
“On average, we have about 25 active players each year and another couple hundred people in our network who previously played,” VerSteeg said.
Friendship doesn’t just exist among teammates. In fact, a post-game get-together between teams is customary.
“Most teams have a home bar or a clubhouse where they host the visiting team for a buffet or potluck-style meal after the game,” VerSteeg said. “Even though you’re constantly tackling and hitting the guy across from you on the field during the match, as soon as it’s over, you sit down to share a meal and a few beers together. The home bar for KRFC is Rugger’s Up and Under but we are also sponsored by Revel and Roll West where we host team meetings and events.”
As a member of the Michigan Rugby Football Union, a division of the Midwest Rugby Football Union, the KRFC has two seasons. A competitive season that runs from Late August to October and a friendly season that lasts April through May.
In terms of cost, joining the KRFC is very affordable.
“All players pay dues every season which are manageable,” VerSteeg shared. “The team provides the jerseys, and the players just need rugby shorts, cleats, and a mouthpiece. We also do a lot of fundraising work to offset some of the team costs and field rental.”
Speaking of field rental, the club currently plays its home games at Upjohn Park but is in the process of building a new pitch on Nichols Road. The new field is expected to be ready by the 2022 spring season.
Aside from preparing for this move and the current season, the club is focused on growing the sport’s local popularity alongside the Western Michigan University Men's Rugby Football Club, Western Michigan University Women’s Rugby Football Club, and the Portage Muskies Rugby Football Club.
A big thank you to Andy and the rest of the KRFC for connecting with us!