Anthony Frein was asked to coach a rugby team in Boone five years ago. When not enough players signed up to take part, the team was opened up to boys from the surrounding area, and several boys from the Ballard school district joined.
Frein said he was approached by a couple of those players after last season about starting a Ballard team so they wouldn’t have to travel so far every day for practice.
“I told them if they got enough numbers, I’d coach their team,” he said. Through the efforts of Ballard Seniors Ben Lee and Josh De Tar, a total of 20 guys signed up — enough for a varsity and a JV team.
Spring 2018 is the inaugural season of Ballard rugby (currently a club sport, not an official school sport) and they are undefeated, so far this season winning over ADM (29-7), Madison County (19-7), Bondurant-Farrar (25-5), Dowling Catholic (28-5), Van Meter (26-12) and Wolf Creek (27-7).
The team plays two games Friday, April 27 at ADM. If they win one or both of those games, they will be conference champs and head to the state tournament on May 11. Pretty impressive for a first year team.
Rugby is an up and coming sport in Iowa. When Frein began playing the sport in high school in 2010, there were four teams in the state. There are currently 45 teams with two divisions (big schools, small schools).
Frein said a lot of people have the wrong idea about the sport. “People tend to think that rugby is super dangerous, but it’s really not. Especially if it’s coached right,” he said.
Webster’s defines rugby as a football game in which play is continuous without time-outs or substitutions, where interference and forward passing are not permitted, and where kicking, dribbling, lateral passing and tackling are featured.
Frein said he’s got a great group of kids and supporters for his first season at Ballard.
“The community support has been great this year. We’ve had more people at games than we ever had at Boone,” he said. “And it’s fun group of players. They’re good kids. They play hard and the coaches like to be around them.”