On the pitch: Learning the game of rugby during mixed touch nights | AspenTimes.com

On the pitch: Learning the game of rugby during mixed touch nights

Ayden Holmes trains with the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club earlier this month.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

As someone raised on American football — go Chiefs — the sport of rugby remains a bit of a mystery to me. Even after writing about it for the better part of two years, the rules and basic strategy haven’t come naturally.

For this reason, among others, I’ve decided to learn the game by playing it. While I have done some training with the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club this summer, one of the best avenues to figuring out rugby’s nuances is through the Aspen mixed touch rugby group.

Organized by Ayden Holmes, the group gets together at 6 p.m. each Wednesday at Rio Grande Park (and, hopefully, Wagner Park once it reopens). Unlike the Gents, who play real deal rugby and don’t mind beating up on each other, the Wednesday sessions are designed for beginners who don’t know the rules and want to learn. Being touch only, it’s friendly for everyone and the ladies are encouraged to join in.

At first, it feels like it’s just a bunch of guys and girls running around, clueless in our rugby endeavor. But, slowly, we all start to figure it out and a flow develops. It really doesn’t take long to pick up the basic rules, and it soon becomes quite the addiction.

So many people, especially the women, are timid to join in and I was long one of them. But, after a few weeks of playing, you realize there was nothing to be afraid of. Trying new things can certainly be scary, which is why the camaraderie of Wednesday’s group is so important. The idea is to build the sport here in Aspen, which already has a reasonably strong hold through the Gents and Ruggerfest.

As much fun as I’m having learning the sport, I wanted to make sure to pitch Wednesday night’s sessions to the rest of the valley. It’s completely free, completely casual and completely safe. Find the Facebook group under “Aspen Mixed Touch Rugby” to stay updated, or just stop by at 6 p.m. on Wednesday to join in. I hope to see you out there.