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Up from the ashes: The revival of the UH men’s rugby club

The UH men's rugby club gathers together after an August practice at Godwin Park. | Courtesy of the UH men's rugby club

The UH men’s rugby club gathers together after an August practice at Godwin Park. | Courtesy of the UH men’s rugby club

Lagniappe is a Cajun French term meaning “a little something extra” and has been used to describe what Christian Glover has been doing all summer.

Glover, supply chain junior and president of the Houston men’s rugby club, has made it his mission to revive one of the University’s oldest intramural clubs, which some have believed to been hidden in the shadows and unbeknownst to the majority of the UH community for years.

Mark Speer, the club’s head advisor and coach, has been around the game of rugby and the Canadian Football League his entire life and says he has never seen someone accomplish so much with so few resources and in such a short amount of time than Glover has.

“I’ve been in this game of rugby for 52 years, this is the first cat I’ve ever seen that has taken the world and put it on his shoulder,” Speer said. “What (Glover) has done, you could take every rugby club in the state and put them together and they still couldn’t total what (Glover’s) done.”

Glover, alongside Speer and Joseph Nguyen, a Kinesiology senior and the club’s vice president, have each put in an average of 50 hours per week over the past three months in an effort to get the club off the ground and running.

The UH men's rugby club has spent time over the summer volunteering at Lamar High School as part of the club's community service efforts.| Courtesy of the UH men's rugby club

The UH men’s rugby club has spent time over the summer volunteering at Lamar High School as part of the club’s community service efforts.| Courtesy of the UH men’s rugby club

From walking the UH campus to try and recruit potential young men to join the club, to working in the Astros team store, to selling advertisements for club programs the team handed out at events, Glover and Nguyen have dedicated all of their time, energy and effort for the benefit UH rugby.

A unique appeal

The biggest selling point for the UH men’s rugby club is that it reflects the diversity of the city of Houston.

Its members are from all over the globe, with different ethnic groups, religions and sexualities coming together to play the game.

“We are a United Nations team,” Speer said. “We’re a smorgasbord of nationalities.”

While the UH rugby club’s members are as diverse as any club or student organization across the country can be, at the end of the day, they treat each other as a giant family.

They are there for each other through the good and bad, celebrating each other’s highs and comforting one another during their lows. They socialize with each other regularly, and go out for team meals.

“The camaraderie, it feels like you’re at home,” Nguyen said. “With this rugby team, everyone’s family.”

Setting high standards

The UH men’s rugby club has high expectations regarding their performance on the pitch,  but Speer sets even higher standards for his team off the pitch with the goal of transforming these boys into men.

For one thing, the only way a member of the club receives playing time is if they have all A’s and B’s. 

“You make a F, a D (or) a C, you ain’t playing for me,” Speer said. “I guarantee you I’ve got the only sports program (at UH) with young men making all A’s and B’s.”

While Speer’s requirement of his players to have A’s or B’s is much stricter than a typical college athletic program which simply requires a player to be passing all of his or her classes in order to be eligible, Speer places a large emphasis on receiving a quality college education. 

By requiring his players to keep up high grades, Speer is hopes each young man is in the best position possible to be successful once they leave UH.

Another thing Speer puts a special emphasis on is manners.

From using “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” when responding to another person to saying “please” and “thank you” to always holding the door for others, Speer does everything he can to teach his players how to be a “gentleman”.

“A requirement of these young men is you must be a gentleman,” Speer said. “Manners and treating women with respect are mandatory.”

Providing an opportunity

The UH men’s rugby club’s ultimate goal is to become a welcoming atmosphere on campus, creating an opportunity for any UH student, no matter what level of rugby experience they have, to join a unique family and learn important life lessons that will help students get the most out of their time in college.

That is why the club does not cost a single penny to join. Instead, the club raises its own money to pay for food, travel and accommodations, equipment and whatever else it might need.

“It doesn’t cost anything to play,” Glover said. “All we ask is that you just show up to practice, volunteer with us (and) fundraise with us. We don’t want to take anyone’s money.”

Due to the countless hours of work Glover and Nguyen put in over the past few months the club has grown to around 30 members and raised enough money to participate in three tournaments this summer.

Speer hopes the club will grow to between 45-60 guys by the time the it kicks of Lone Star Conference play in early September.

“Everybody knows your name, everybody knows your problems, everybody knows what you’re good at,” Glover said. “These are people that are going to take you very seriously and we’re going to do everything we can to include you.”

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