The Student News Site of North Polk High School

The Orbit

The Student News Site of North Polk High School

The Orbit

The Student News Site of North Polk High School

The Orbit

A New Tradition

The first year of North Polk’s Rugby program
The North Polk Rugby Team founding players. From top left to right is Dominick Hobby, Nick Plautz, Ian Marquez, Owen Wasko, Judah McKay and Preston McKay. Not pictured are Jess Phillips, Karson Cordero.

A new sport has emerged among the many at North Polk High School, hopefully starting a new tradition as later stated by Coach Justin McKay. The sport- rugby.

McKay, who has been playing rugby for over 20 years, explained that he wanted to bring the sport to North Polk due to the community feel of the district. Furthermore, he was influenced by his two sons, junior Preston and sophomore Judah McKay, as they went through the football program and their positive experiences with the athletics department during football season.

What a great community Mr. Eichorn and Coach Tebrink have fostered [at North Polk], the spirit of rugby is all about this type of community” expressed McKay. 

Coach McKay as he gave the game plan to the team.

The process taken before recruiting for the team started with McKay’s’ sons exchanging emails with activities director Matt Eichorn on how the school could be supportive of the program. In regards to said support, McKay expressed that it was “more helpful than we could’ve imagined” and “nothing short of amazing.”

Though the team is not an official North Polk team, it is a club sport similar to the trap team in association to North Polk. McKay communicated the overarching goal was to create a positive representation for the school despite operating separately.

After the idea was run through Eichorn, the recruitment process began with an informational meeting at La Familia restaurant in Polk City for those who were interested in joining the team. 

For those that did go through with playing the sport, McKay expressed that the boys have “grown super close, and are working really hard. Definitely a special group for our inaugural year.”

He furthermore explained that not only have the boys grown in their skill with the sport, but also into a better version of themselves, expressing the players would attest to this take as well.

Though the interest and passion for rugby has been shown through this group of boys, McKay described this season as “a building year.” He noted that the biggest challenge is the need for more players as the team is constantly playing one or sometimes even two men down. He encourages anyone thinking about doing rugby to give it a try in order to continue building the sport at North Polk. 

In regards to the future of the team, McKay hopes to continue to grow the team in the following years as well as with the encouragement from current players recruiting for next year will be “a breeze.” McKay also showed interest in building a girls team and plans to begin recruiting girls in the late Summer to early Fall of the next school year.

He also believes that a shot for state contenders is possible through a continuing building of said team. During my time taking pictures and observing the second game of the team, I too believe that this is attainable. Another person who seemed to see this was the coach for the Bondurant who congratulated them for their work ethic and determination, even inviting them to participate in tryouts for the Iowa Youth Rugby Association.

Not only have the players shown sportsmanship and a good look for North Polk on the field, but the team has also focused on giving back to the community. The team participated in a two-day community service project where they bought the ingredients and cooked meals for the Mercy One Children’s Ronald McDonald House as well as buying wish list items for the hospital. 

Having played for teams such as the Des Moines Wombats and the St. Louis Bombers McKay feels as though he can not imagine not being involved with the sport in any way, and encourages others to try out. One can go to the team’s practices, talk to the players and/or coaches not only within North Polk but throughout the rugby community in Iowa.

If one wants to support the players, one can do so by going to games on Mondays and Fridays, encouraging players and following their journey and passion through the North Polk Rugby Instagram account (northpolkrugby). 

“I think over time and through building the program, rugby and North Polk are going to have a wonderful relationship,” conveyed McKay. 

Through the hardships faced, the team has continued to show resilience on the field and present a positive outlook for the North Polk School District.

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About the Contributor
Zoe Marquez
Zoe Marquez, Newspaper Editor
Junior, Zoe Marquez is the newspaper editor for “The Orbit.” She explained, “I decided to join the newspaper because it seemed really interesting as well as it builds connections.” She plans to gain writing and editing experience by being an editor throughout the rest of her high school career.  Marquez is busy at school with both DMACC and AP classes. Outside of school she has many hobbies to fill her time. “Growing up not knowing English, reading and writing give you a sense of achievement.” Marquez also enjoys watching Netflix and making time for friends and family.  While Marquez has no definitive plans for the future she knows that this class will give her many necessary skills for any career. “It’s going to help me professionally, as well as help me grow better communication skills,” explained Marquez. 

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    Krystal WaskoApr 10, 2024 at 5:17 pm

    A BIG Thank You to Coach McKay for bringing this sport to North Polk!!! I have experienced first hand the growth that rugby brings to young players. Beyond the demanding physical aspect of the sport itself, I think the sportsmanship and respect that rugby teaches and instills in players towards their teammates, coaches, opponents and referees is amazing. I have 2 kids involved in rugby, the oldest started in high school and is now playing D1 rugby in college, and my youngest is part of this new team. I can’t wait to watch this team grow and encourage any parent whose child is interested to let them play, rugby is truly a unique and special community that no doubt they will be involved in for life, it’s very cool to witness.