Furman University Club Sports Banquet Speech

by John Roberts
May 1999

I know that I'm only supposed to talk about our accomplishment's this season and give out awards. But as this marks the completion of our first full year - and our first spring banquet - I felt compelled to put together a few words.

As part of my job, I write speeches for the president. So I was a bit excited this morning when I sat down to write this - a speech for me. It was roughly two years when Marc Roberts - this bushy-haired sophomore - joined the Greenville Griffins for our fabled annual trek to Savannah for the St. Patrick's Day Rugby Tournament. We were part of a motley crew that rented a 20-foot recreational vehicle for the anticipated trip. Well, details of that weekend remain, to this day, a bit fuzzy. I do remember that that's when Marc first proposed the idea of forming a Furman men's rugby team. At the time, I was still very much interested in playing - not coaching - so I tucked the idea away.

A little more than a year ago however as the creaking in my knees, nagging injuries and time demands at home with two small children began to grow, coaching seemed to be an attractive alternative. But I was skeptical. After all, Furman only has a student body of 2,500 - roughly 1,200 men. Exclude the scholarship athletes and you're looking at a recruiting base of only 1,000 guys. Many of the schools we would be playing had student bodies that dwarfed Furman's. Could we field a competitive team? I wasn't sure. We would make a go of it.

Well, when Danielle Snoddy - then a freshman - came to me wanting to start a women's team just a few days after the first men's club practice I was even more skeptical. Women's rugby? At Furman? Yes, I wondered if there were 15 women in the Furman bubble tough enough to play rugby. But how could I say no. Both teams have more than quieted my skepticism. Your accomplishments - in just a little more than one year - have been nothing short of spectacular. The men's club completed the fall and spring season with a 12-1 record. This spring, our team outscored its opponents 176-21. The women tallied a 5-1 record this spring after posting a 1-3 record last fall. You all energized this campus with your play, regularly attracting raucous crowds of 300 or more at you home games. The success of the rugby teams was the buzz at Furman early this Spring. And you all shocked the rugby community with your first-year success.

Our accomplishments off the field have been just as impressive. This year, Furman hosted two of the largest rugby tournaments in the Southeast. The Southeast Collegian Conference March 27-28 and the Rugby South Men's Division II play-offs April 10-11. These events, not only raised nearly a $1,000 for our club, they attracted hundreds of ruggers representing 10 states to our campus.

I have played competitive rugby for more than 12 years. For more than half of those years I was a member of championship teams. I expect to win. I expect our teams to win. I have seen this competitive fire in you all. In particularly I saw it at Elon after our first loss. Though winning is important and fun. It's not what really matters. What matters are the friendships. Because once the knees go and you lose a step or two or three, the game leaves you behind. But the friendships remain. You treasure them more than the wins, more than the championships.

More satisfying than the near undefeated records this season have been the friendships that I've watched develop -- the camaraderie that's been forged in this club. Guys and girls who didn't know each other before the season, will be roommates next year. The heat and battle of a rugby game can bring a team together like nothing else. It is a sport that bonds. I know this. Now, you all know it to. Again, congratulations on your success this year. It has been a true honor to serve as your coach. I am looking forward to building upon our success next year.

Thank you. I know that I'm only supposed to talk about our accomplishment's this season and give out awards. But as this marks the completion of our first full year - and our first spring banquet - I felt compelled to put together a few words.

As part of my job, I write speeches for the president. So I was a bit excited this morning when I sat down to write this - a speech for me. It was roughly two years when Marc Roberts - this bushy-haired sophomore - joined the Greenville Griffins for our fabled annual trek to Savannah for the St. Patrick's Day Rugby Tournament. We were part of a motley crew that rented a 20-foot recreational vehicle for the anticipated trip. Well, details of that weekend remain, to this day, a bit fuzzy. I do remember that that's when Marc first proposed the idea of forming a Furman men's rugby team. At the time, I was still very much interested in playing - not coaching - so I tucked the idea away.

A little more than a year ago however as the creaking in my knees, nagging injuries and time demands at home with two small children began to grow, coaching seemed to be an attractive alternative. But I was skeptical. After all, Furman only has a student body of 2,500 - roughly 1,200 men. Exclude the scholarship athletes and you're looking at a recruiting base of only 1,000 guys. Many of the schools we would be playing had student bodies that dwarfed Furman's. Could we field a competitive team? I wasn't sure. We would make a go of it.

Well, when Danielle Snoddy - then a freshman - came to me wanting to start a women's team just a few days after the first men's club practice I was even more skeptical. Women's rugby? At Furman? Yes, I wondered if there were 15 women in the Furman bubble tough enough to play rugby. But how could I say no. Both teams have more than quieted my skepticism. Your accomplishments - in just a little more than one year - have been nothing short of spectacular. The men's club completed the fall and spring season with a 12-1 record. This spring, our team outscored its opponents 176-21. The women tallied a 5-1 record this spring after posting a 1-3 record last fall. You all energized this campus with your play, regularly attracting raucous crowds of 300 or more at you home games. The success of the rugby teams was the buzz at Furman early this Spring. And you all shocked the rugby community with your first-year success.

Our accomplishments off the field have been just as impressive. This year, Furman hosted two of the largest rugby tournaments in the Southeast. The Southeast Collegian Conference March 27-28 and the Rugby South Men's Division II play-offs April 10-11. These events, not only raised nearly a $1,000 for our club, they attracted hundreds of ruggers representing 10 states to our campus.

I have played competitive rugby for more than 12 years. For more than half of those years I was a member of championship teams. I expect to win. I expect our teams to win. I have seen this competitive fire in you all. In particularly I saw it at Elon after our first loss. Though winning is important and fun. It's not what really matters. What matters are the friendships. Because once the knees go and you lose a step or two or three, the game leaves you behind. But the friendships remain. You treasure them more than the wins, more than the championships.

More satisfying than the near undefeated records this season have been the friendships that I've watched develop -- the camaraderie that's been forged in this club. Guys and girls who didn't know each other before the season, will be roommates next year. The heat and battle of a rugby game can bring a team together like nothing else. It is a sport that bonds. I know this. Now, you all know it to. Again, congratulations on your success this year. It has been a true honor to serve as your coach. I am looking forward to building upon our success next year.

Thank you. ​​​

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