Hanscom captains lead Air Force to eighth rugby title

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt Jennifer Foster
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. - Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force. These are fitting words to describe the Armed Forces Rugby Championship held Nov. 2 through 5 at Fort Benning, Ga.

The Air Force rugby team blasted through the competition, winning all of their games and taking the title of champion for the eighth year in a row.

Two players who did their part making sure the Air Force stayed on top are a couple of Hanscom's finest.

Capt. Brandon Conyers, Enhanced Land/Maritime Mode (ELMM/ARM) program manager, and Capt. Nathan Terrazone, Upgrades Early Warning Radar and COBRA DANE project manager, both took time away from their day-to-day duties to bring home the gold in a sport not too widely played in the United States.

Although rugby may not be as well known to Americans as football or soccer, it is the national sport of many countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Wales.

According to www.usarugby.org, the first recorded game on American soil took place in Cambridge, Mass., at Harvard University in 1874.

The first Olympic showing was in 1900, but the sport was eventually cut and the popularity within the United States declined until the 1960s and 70s.

With any growing sport, there are new players and with new players there are many different reasons to play.

For Conyers, who started playing in 2003 while attending the Air Force Academy, rugby is a sport that translates to a worldwide level.

"I've found club teams at every base I have been stationed at that have accepted me with open arms," he said. "I still talk to a lot of the guys from my first team on a regular basis."

Terrazone, however, didn't start playing until 2009 while he was stationed at Hanscom.

"Since I stopped playing football after college," he said, "I needed something that keeps me in good physical condition and includes an element of camaraderie that's lacking from my everyday life."

Rugby is a sport that certainly tests a person's athletic abilities, as well.

The sport is viewed by many as dangerous, but according to www.rugbyfootball.com, Dr. Lyle Micheli, Director of the Division of Sports Medicine at Boston Children's Hospital, explains rugby is less dangerous than many sports.

Micheli explains that although rugby players don't wear protective gear like American football players, this is the reason they get less injuries.

"The rugby player doesn't have the same disregard for the safety of his or her head, neck and shoulders when tackling or trying to break through a tackle," he states on the website.

Although Terrazone has suffered a few injuries over the years, including a torn hamstring, he explains the risk is worth the reward.

"I love the high level of competition and camaraderie that's offered when you sacrifice your well-being for your teammates and they do the same for you," he said. "It forms bonds that can't be forged in other sports, let alone other social settings."

Tryouts for the Air Force rugby team were held in Savannah, Ga., in March and 30 players were selected to attend the Armed Forces Tournament at Fort Benning.

Of those 30, only 25 were selected to be on the roster of the Air Force team.

Practices were held twice a day so team members could hone in on their basic rugby skills and learn how to work as a cohesive unit in the week and a half leading up to the tournament.

"The goal is to build cohesion as much as possible," Terrazone said. "We don't practice together year round so team play needs to have a steep learning curve in order to have success."

Although the players practice and are physically ready for the challenges of each game, there are still tough moments.

For Conyers that moment was when he was about to engage in yet another scrum.

"The scrum is used to resume play after certain penalties," he said. "It's when both teams line up eight guys across from each other and then come together in a mass of humanity to reengage in play. Smashing into a line of guys over and over again can begin to wear on you."

Each player may have had a moment of weakness, but Air Force was determined to keep the title that had been theirs since 2004.

"It was expected for Air Force to win this tournament as we had won the past seven times," Terrazone said. "Going into every game expecting to win really focuses your effort and cuts down any rationalizing of mistakes."

Their focus, hard work and determination paid off and allowed Air Force to keep their title for yet another year.

"It is one of the most rewarding things I have done in the Air Force thus far in my short career," said Terrazone.

"I'm really glad I had a chance to do it," Conyers said. "Representing the Air Force against the other services instills a lot of pride that can sometimes get lost in the everyday shuffle of doing our regular jobs."

The final results for the 2011Armed Forces Rugby Tournament: Air Force, first place; Coast Guard, second place; Navy, third place; Army, fourth place and the Marines, fifth place.