Howdy Rugby Lovers,
We have a special post for you today; Mike Blais, a dedicated Rogue, wanted to share his story with you all. You'll catch it just below.
Why I Play for the Rogues
Early this summer, some fellow Flatliners (the Vancouver Paramedics rugby team) invited me to come practice and play touch rugby with a new team they were putting together. They were relaunching the Vancouver Rogues, Canada’s first gay and inclusive rugby team. I came out to that first practice “to be a body” and support my friends in their endeavor. That sunny Sunday, I was in awe at the number of people who showed up, about 25, some experienced ruggers and others completely new to the game. Anyone who has tried to get a group of adults together in any capacity understands the challenge this poses, especially considering the last 2 years. But it was happening, and I had a blast. It wasn’t just an afternoon of touch rugby, fundamentals were introduced to those new (and returning) to the game. Passing drills, skills, rules, and basic positioning – all the stuff we do when introducing new players to the sport in rookie rugby. To cap it all off, we then played probably one of the worst games of touch rugby ever played. It was amazing.
After only a few Sundays of running with the group, not quite yet a team, I had committed to support socially and play in tournaments in order to make the Rogue’s eligible to play in next year's Bingham Cup in Ottawa. What I saw happening over the summer was inspiring. New players kept joining and the same faces kept showing up and coming back week after week. Mid August came and it was time to register for the full season. My fall curling plans (curling and rugby are pretty closely related, right?) fell through and all of a sudden I had Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays now free. With the reluctant blessing of my partners, I registered as a Rogue for my first season of club rugby since I played Juniors with the Douglas Rugby club 25 years ago.
Our first full contact game was just over a month ago now. Though I wish I had recorded my feelings at the time, I remember sharing how important that first game was to me with a few teammates – and I felt them sharing those feelings of significance with me. I felt excitement, apprehension, but, most of all, I felt pride. Pride is a remarkable and foundational facet in the LGBTQIA2S+ community, so please allow my overuse here:
I felt Pride in the executive team for all the hard work they have and continue to do – launching and running a team is no easy task,
Pride in the various queer members of our Vancouver communities for coming out and trying a new sport,
Pride in those who first touched a rugby ball this summer and now are playing in full-contact 80-minute rugby games,
Pride in those who haven’t committed to contact rugby but still come out to practice and learn the game, work on their skills, and participate alongside us,
Pride in the rugby community at large, whose supportive work helps to sustain our club’s operation: the Meraloma RFC embraced the Rogues and endorsed us to play under their club banner; the Chilliwack and United RFCs happily send players to bolster our numbers when needed and provide experience in many of our games; Richmond RFC tested our team’s resolve with our two tough and exciting games, teaching us how intense the sport can be; the Capilano RFC thrashed us but played nobly on the pitch and treated us nobly in the clubhouse. The four games we have played have been a learning experience for us on the field but also have proved how accepting the rugby community can be. After each game we have been toasted by our opponents during post-game socials and welcomed with open arms to the lower-mainland rugby community,
And finally, Pride in every single Rogue who has stepped onto the pitch for any amount of practice or game time. Somehow, I have found myself as one of the leaders of the Rogues and the resilience and hard work I see being put in is hard for me to describe. Injured players doing their best to come back and continuing to practice to the best of their abilities. Hesitant players who are beginning to feel their hard work paying off, developing the confidence and ability to play and excel in this new sport. The camaraderie this team has already built in 5 short months is something that I have seen teams take years to develop. The Vancouver Rogues are special. You must trust me on this, as I don’t think my rambling-on does justice to what I see happening with this team. I cannot imagine where we will be next August when we head to Ottawa, but I know we'll be together, and I know Pride will continue to illuminate this team.
“Dad, you’re not gay,” my teenage son said when we were talking about the team. He’s right, I don’t identify as gay, however, I am always learning and doing my best to be an ally to a community that our friends and family belong to. Trust me again when I say our family owes our current lifestyle to the queer community and the rights and recognition that they continue to struggle for. Living openly as part of a polyamorous throuple with children has only been possible for us because of what LGBTQIA2S+ peoples have accomplished. We are out to our families, our workplaces, our children’s friends, their teachers and our community at large. We don’t have to hide our family dynamics in any way. Most times, the collective reaction when we share how our family functions is, “hey, that’s pretty cool.” Those words and the acceptance and comfort they embody is entirely due to the work of queer communities. Our kids are of a different generation, they have queer and trans friends and it’s really a non-issue to them. I know a large part of this acceptance can happen because of where we live, however, I want my kids, their friends, our friends and family – all our various communities – to know that in this place we call our village, they have access to supportive spaces built on collectives of Pride like the Rogues.
I have immense Pride in my teammates and the journey we are on together, and I take Pride in calling myself a Vancouver Rogue.