CU men’s rugby team works to improve image

Shannon Fischer / Castleton Spartan
Rugby team members pose for a picture with Michael Odell after a practice last week.

The flurries of snow swirled through the sky as Michael’s face lit up with extreme excitement as he joined in on the drills with the rugby boys.  Michael was finally a part of the team of the sport he loves, and the rugby boys welcomed him as a part of their team and family.

Michael Odell is a 16-year-old boy who is exuberant when it comes to the sport of rugby.  But Odell is not allowed to play the sport he enjoys because, although technically undiagnosed, it is believed he has a form of Cerebral Palsy. Odell’s disability limits his capabilities to play rugby, so the rugby boys took action to summon him to their family.

On April 6 the rugby boys helped Odell with a video project. He decided to do his video on Castleton and rugby.

Junior Walter Odell, Michael’s older brother and a member of the club, talked about Michael’s project.

“My brother’s doing a video. It’s to show what kids in Vermont see Vermont as. He decided to do his video on Castleton and rugby because he loves rugby. He’s been to every game we’ve had so far and it’s a big thing for him,” he said.

Walter continued to express his appreciation for his teammates.

“It means a lot to me to know the guys on our team are willing to help my brother out. It just means a lot that he’s going to be able to come out here and feel like he’s a part of the team because he’s not able to be a part of teams in most situations. I think it’s great for him and it means the world to me that everybody’s willing to do that,” he said.

Castleton rugby has a bad reputation from past occurrences, and the boys are working hard to give back to the community and show people that past events haven’t defined who they are as a team and as individuals.

Senior Andrew McPhillips talked about the false information that has come out and wants the community to be aware of it.

“That is completely falsified. We have our rowdy side which is what we’re known for essentially, but all the things that are coming out are just false advertising and we’re actually just a family that loves being together and love the sport of rugby and want to just spread the love,” McPhillips said.

President of the club Aaron Clark gives a different reason for the damaged reputation of the Rugby Club.

“The rugby team has traditionally not had a great reputation here at Castleton because of extra-curricular activities that occurred before I was even at school here.  I would really like people to know that we’re a team, a club of friends and individuals that are trying to get our degrees here and to work hard at this school. We like to come out here and play some rugby and have fun and enjoy each other’s company,” Clark said.

This is the first milestone that the club has come across to help better the community.

“The team has not yet done anything else. We are trying to get together some fundraisers. We have a director of fundraising now, which is a new position that we haven’t had before. This is just one of the first steps that we’re trying to take to get PR,” Clark said.

The boys mentioned how helping Michael will benefit them as a team.

“It gives us an extra positive energy. We’re always looking for ways that we can help our community and they’re not always easy to come by, and it’s just an opportunity that is a win-win for this club,” said Seth Harrington senior and Treasurer of the Castleton University Rugby Football Club.

Junior Chris Manjuck also mentioned how helping Michael brings the team together.

“It makes us closer together as a family and we’re more than welcome to introduce more people to our family,” Manjuck said.

As Seth Harrington said, “We’re always looking for ways to better our reputation, and we don’t want anything that’s been done by past clubs to tarnish the name, because we’re a different team, a different club and we have different values than we’ve had in the past.”


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