UNI men’s rugby overcoming challenges in 2020


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the spring season for UNI men’s rugby was cut short with their fall season being delayed as well.

Coach Jesus Ramirez said with no games or scrimmages happening, practice has also been altered when comparing to past seasons.

“It’s different for sure but it has allowed us to work on individual player development and work on everyone’s skills.”

Ramirez began coaching at UNI in the fall 2015 after playing the sport for 10 years, when previous coach, Ryan Gray, retired and took a teaching position in the Des Moines area.

Ramirez said he enjoyed his time playing and the connections he’s made since being involved with rugby all over the state.

“It’s the bond that we build over time, especially meeting players all over the world, so because of rugby I was introduced to many players from different backgrounds and countries.”

On the other hand, when being a coach instead of a player, Ramirez said his favorite part is being able to watch the players grow and develop through rugby and academically.

“Finding out they’ll be walking out with a degree from this great university is a proud moment for me as a coach, we stress that they’re here for school, not rugby” he said.

With this school year off to a different start, the team has done what they can to still be somewhat involved in the club.

All coaches and players are to wear masks, temperatures are checked, symptom sheets are brought to each practice, practices are no contact and group sizes are smaller when practicing and conditioning to follow social distancing guidelines.

The Iowa State and Iowa Central men’s rugby teams were approved by both of their school’s and the Iowa Rugby Union to play a game a few weeks ago on Aug 31st.

“Both are very prominent programs and as far as we’ve heard everything went ok,” Ramirez said.

He said he hopes with businesses slowly opening and other sports within the community still being played that there still can be a season before the semester or school year ends.

“Even if it is one scrimmage or one game, it would just give our seniors one last game, especially for those who have worked hard all summer to stay safe and in shape,” he said.

Junior Ben Boezinger said practices have dramatically changed but said it hasn’t been too challenging to adjust to.

Boezinger began playing rugby in high school at Cedar Falls High School and decided to play at UNI when a few former players decided to help out at an early-season practice he attended.

The camaraderie and friendship is probably the best part about playing,” he said.

Although the team has been following CDC and university guidelines, they are still unable to play any games at this time but have hope for the spring and the next fall season.