MVHS alumnus hosts summer rugby sessions

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MVHS alumnus hosts summer rugby sessions

Om Khandekar

For Bay Area residents who have never seen or played rugby before, that may change a lot sooner than many of them would expect. During the summer, MVHS class of 2016 alumnus Eric Crouch began bringing the European game to Cupertino by hosting free rugby sessions on the MVHS football field. Crouch promoted on Facebook before each event, and his plan was to host low-commitment workouts to teach people who hadn’t played the sport before. Eventually, the idea was to organize scrimmages and games with whomever showed up.

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Class of 2016 Matt Burke and Richard Crouch participate in a scrimmage at one of the rugby sessions. They participated in scrimmages for at least an hour.

“It’s a little difficult to wrap your mind around it in some ways because all the passing is backwards,” Crouch said.  

Crouch began playing rugby as a child. His father, Richard Crouch, played rugby when he was young as well and got Eric into the sport when he was in fourth grade. Eric originally played for a team in Palo Alto called the Seahawks.

“Ten years or so ago there was only one club,” Richard said, “but now there’s actually six or seven [clubs], so it’s surprising how much this sport’s grown up.”

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Richard Crouch tosses the ball in a warmup drive. Crouch has played rugby since he was a child.

This sudden rise of teams led Eric to join clubs in Santa Clara and Los Gatos after he left the Seahawks. Richard coached youth rugby and youth soccer because of Eric’s involvement in both sports, and pointed out differences between the kids that signed up for rugby and those who participated in soccer leagues.

“In rugby you see a much brighter and wider range of people coming in,” Richard said. “They all seem to really enjoy it, so I think I get more from the rugby than the soccer.”

The idea for the summer rugby sessions at MVHS, however, came from Eric’s time on the varsity soccer team at MVHS.

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Class of 2016 Eric Crouch along with Suhan Hajela, Richard Crouch and Kartik Jain stand in a defensive scheme. Scrimmages took place in the second half of the session.

“We had this running joke, that I would take the team out for fish and chips since I’m English, and although that never happened the joke began to get larger and larger,” Eric said. “And well, if we had fish and chips we would have to work it off with some exercise so it became team rugby, but as many times as we tried to get it together it never worked out.”

After multiple attempts during the school year to organize these sessions, Eric turned to social media to get some more interest in the idea.

“In a moment of sheer frustration I posted it on Facebook for all the world,” Eric said. “‘I want to play some rugby with some people. If you want to come out, come out. If you don’t, don’t.’ And we had a pretty good number of people respond.”

Facebook Promotion of Rugby Sessions

The second post Eric Crouch made to promote his sessions. After his first post gained traction, he continued the sessions.

Soon after the post gained traction among his Facebook friends, Eric hosted his first session with around eight friends showing up in total. Recent MVHS alumnus from the class of 2016, Matt Burke, also showed up to this session. He had played with Eric in sixth grade, and used these sessions to improve his rugby skills.

“If you can get a clinic started, hopefully more will come, and more people can come play because it’s a great time,” Burke said.

Although Burke is a supporter of the informal sessions Eric hosts, he also believes that it may be difficult for rugby to catch on at MVHS in particular. To him, many freshmen come to MVHS with the idea of playing football and don’t know what to expect with rugby.

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Class of 2016 Matt Burke tosses the rugby ball. He showed up to many of the summer rugby sessions.

“I think it would be cool,” Burke said, “but it would be tough because [rugby] wouldn’t have much of a following.”

But Eric isn’t too disappointed by the fluctuating turnout at his sessions.

“If it’s just these 4-man sessions where I teach an eight-year-old how to play rugby,” Eric said. “That will be good for me too.”

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Richard Crouch watches a participant of the rugby session attempt a drive. Richard Crouch coached youth rugby previously, however he attended his son’s session as a participant.

Although numbers are necessary to play a proper game, his main reason for hosting the sessions is to find something to fill the time he has left until college.

“He just comes out here whenever he feels lonely,” Richard said, “but he comes back a little bit solemn if only a few people come out.”

Even though Eric hosted summer rugby this year, he is unsure of whether or not he will continue to host these workouts in the future. As the summer draws to an end, he is glad that he had the chance to play rugby with some of his friends. Although he may not have fully revolutionized the concept of rugby for MVHS, his laid-back sessions definitely helped him ease many of his peers into the sport.