Breckenridge rugby team eyes a rebuild as it hosts annual Ski Town tournament
For the first time in six years, Breckenridge’s Gentlemen of the Blue Goose Rugby Club will host the annual Ski Town Rugby Tournament on Saturday, July 27. The tournament, which will run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Kingdom Park Turf Field, is a rotating annual event that pits rugby clubs from ski resort towns — such as Vail, Aspen, Glenwood Springs and Steamboat Springs — against each other.
The tournament is a summer high-point for the Gentlemen of the Blue Goose, which were able to rejoin the Rocky Mountain Rugby Summer League after not taking part last summer because of a lack of players.
The storied club, which has been a staple of the Breckenridge community since 1974, is working to rebuild and recruit players, said Ohio native Mike Williams, 36, who serves as club president and lives in Silverthorne. Williams said the team has been able to recruit as many as 17 players this summer after a season when the program struggled to field 15 players consistently, sometimes pulling players from other clubs.
“We are trying to become a place where people can come and play rugby from any level,” Williams said. “If they want to learn this sport or have been playing for years, we’re welcoming, and you’re probably going to get playing time.”
Williams said the transient nature of Summit County caught up with the club last summer, when players moved away and forced the team to drop out of the Mountain League. This summer, Williams said, the team has a good mix of new players and more experienced players, including former members of the University of Colorado and Colorado State University rugby clubs.
“We’re always looking for players of any skill level,” Williams said. “I started three years ago, never played rugby before in my life, and now I’m running it. We’re very accepting of people of all skill levels. We help people understand the game of rugby so they can step up and play.”
Unlike High Country rival teams like Aspen and Vail, the Blue Goose have been without an official coach since 2014, though team members have stepped up to help guide the team in player-coach style.
The team takes part in touch sessions at 5:30 p.m. each Monday evening at Kingdom Park’s turf field in Breckenridge and welcomes anyone interested in taking part, even if they are trying out rugby for the first time. Williams, who plays some back and wing for the Blue Goose, said the team mentality and camaraderie are what keep him coming back.
“Just how accepting of everybody we are — there’s a spot for every type of person on the rugby pitch. And as soon as you play rugby, you get out on the field and knock around with others, almost immediately you’re a part of the family that plays rugby. And you realize, it doesn’t matter what team you play for, as long as you’re playing rugby, you’re part of family.”
Williams said current members and a few of the club’s “old boys” — rugby slang for the older players — pitched in this past winter to rent turf time indoors in Breckenridge to keep the club’s touch sessions alive.
The Gentlemen of the Blue Goose have been aided this summer by sponsors and club supporters, including Napper Tandy’s in Breckenridge — which will host a post-tournament social Saturday after matches conclude — Northside Pizza and Wood Mechanical.
“It’s tradition,” Williams said about recent efforts to maintain and rebuild the club. “There’s been an adult men’s rugby team in Breckenridge for a long time. It’s a history, and we just want to keep that going.”
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