A week at the pitch with Coast Guard Rugby

The U.S. Coast Guard Rugby Team gather together following selections.

Written by Ensign Victor Rizzardi

By sheer number of personnel, the Coast Guard is diminutive compared to the other U.S. Armed Forces; however, we maintain a reputation of never backing down and always being able to punch above our weight class. Nowhere was this more evident than when Coast Guard Rugby came together this summer for the Armed Forces Rugby Tournament, a smaller tournament within the Serevi RugbyTown Sevens tournament. The Sevens – or 7s – rugby is so named because of its seven-on-seven play, as opposed to the more traditional 15-on-15 rugby union play.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Jethro Hauser with the pass against Navy.

Held each year at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado, the tournament plays host to some of the best teams from around the world, including those from each of the Armed Forces represented by their best ruggers.

This year, the Coast Guard Men’s Rugby Team received applications from 36 players, all contending for a position on the team. Only 18 members were selected for training camp with a final 12-man roster chosen for tournament play. Selected applicants represented pay grades E-3 to O-4 with members from every community within the Coast Guard’s 11 statutory missions; it’s one of the very few opportunities in the service to form relationships across so many rates and ranks.

“Training and taking the field with the Coast Guard Men’s Rugby Team has been one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had thus far in the Coast Guard and will remain so until the 2018 tournament,” said Lt. j.g. Wyatt Harvey, who looks forward to the tournament every year.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Brendan Davis makes space against a player on the Air Force Rugby Team.

At 5,000 feet above sea level, the first day of training in Colorado was a rude awakening as it kicked off with a full-field fitness test. The remainder of training camp consisted of two to three training sessions each day covering ball handling, line-out maneuvers, lifting techniques, situational moves, penalties, and team concepts. It was a busy week that was capped with jersey presentations, a formal tradition recognizing the 12 ruggers that would represent the Coast Guard on the pitch.

The tournament got off to a great start with the team facing off against the team of All Navy. The Coast Guard team commanded all aspects of play, handing All Navy a 21-12 loss. In the remaining Armed Forces pool play, Coast Guard fell to Air Force 17-26 in a hard-fought match, but bounced back defeating the Marines in convincing fashion, 26-10. For the first time in Armed Forces 7s’ history, the Coast Guard team took home the Sea Service Cup as the top team of the three seagoing services.

At the conclusion of the first day of tournament play, Lt. Drew Somplasky represented the Coast Guard, along with a member of each branch of the Armed Forces, in a ceremony to honor fallen rugby players.

Coast Guard finished day two of the tournament with hard-fought losses to the All Army team, placing them in 3rd place for the Armed Forces Tournament, behind All Army and Air Force.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Brendan Davis and Lt. Cmdr. Keith Wilkins join forces to make a tackle.

Although the Armed Forces Tournament play was complete, the Coast Guard continued to compete against some of the best athletes in the tournament, including Atavus All-Stars, which fielded a team of professional rugby players. The defining characteristics of the Coast Guard team’s tough, never-give-up attitude was proven in day three, when they defeated the Royal Air Force Spitfires 24-14.

Coast Guard’s final contest would see them face off against Navy one last time for the Serevi Rugbytown 7’s Shield Cup, but after 14 minutes of back-and-forth rugby, Navy found themselves on the winning side of a well-played 24-17 final match.

During their time in Glendale, the focus wasn’t entirely on the rugby tournament. Players took time to share their love for the Coast Guard with over 4,000 spectators as they staffed a recruiting booth set up for the tournament, surely contributing to the number of fans cheering for the Coast Guard team each match. Additionally, players from the team volunteered during one of the only breaks in training to spend time with patients at a local children’s hospital.

“It’s incredible that Coast Guard Rugby continues to serve in communities even when we are away from our own,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Chad Morris. “I am honored to be a part of an organization that gives back wherever we are.”

Petty Officer 3rd Class Jethro Hauser and Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Geckas receive All Armed Forces honors. They will play on a single All-Armed Forces team in an upcoming tournament.

Two members of the team, Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Geckas and Petty Officer 3rd Class Jethro Hauser, earned the honor of being selected for the all-tournament team. As members of this team, they will join hand-selected members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to compete in another upcoming tournament, representing the best players from the Armed Forces.

Regardless of Coast Guard Rugby’s small size and budget, the team is continually improving its skill level and always looking for new members. The next tournament is the Las Vegas Invitational, which takes place Feb. 28 – March 3, 2018. The event will feature both a men’s and a women’s tournament. Active-duty and reserve members interested in participating are encouraged to contact CGRugby@uscg.mil for more information.

2017 Roster

Coach – Sean “Snacks” Lindersmith
Officer In Charge – Cmdr. JD McManus

Team Manager – Ensign Vinny Nitopi

  • Petty Officer 3rd Class James Chandler
  • Petty Officer 1st Class John Curtiss
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Brendan Davis
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Geckas
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Jethro Hauser
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Dan Kellam
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric Post
  • Lt. Andrew Somplasky
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Alex Vinkavich
  • Lt. Cmdr. Keith Wilkins
  • Lt. j.g. Wyatt Harvey
  • Ensign Victor Rizzardi
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Chad Morris
  • Petty Officer 1st Class Cartlon Marshall
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Brett Barbosa
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Yost
  • Seaman Michael Keck
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Cody Proctor

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