FRANKLIN — Rugby isn’t a Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association sport yet, but according to Bill Good, president of the Massachusetts Youth Rugby Organization, it took a significant step Wednesday toward becoming the MIAA’s 35th sport.
The MIAA Board of Directors meeting agenda included a vote on rule change proposals. The list of 39 proposed changes, ranging from wooden bats in baseball to expanding hockey periods from 15 to 17 minutes, included proposal No. 2, the recognition of rugby as an MIAA sport.
The board voted, 12-1, against adding rugby, but to Good it was an important step in what he believes will be eventual approval.
“Our goal in filing this was to put the sport out there,” said Good. “With roughly 30 teams we’re reaching a number that approaches critical mass in terms of recognition. Whether we got a positive vote or a negative vote, we’re on the table now.
“What we hope is that people become more aware and we can use this as an opportunity to promote the growth of the game. Like lacrosse 15 years ago, we think that’s where we are now, and we think we’re going to wind up in a comparable place to lacrosse. As the game grows nationally, more and more kids are going to become aware of it. This is the first step along a fairly long highway. The fact that we’re here, maybe some people thought a little differently when I left than when we came in.”
Rugby is growing in the state. There are 19 boys’ teams and five girls’ teams. In addition, there are six multi-school or community teams, and three for girls. This spring, Needham and Belmont added girls’ teams, Hanover and Oliver Ames added boys’ teams. Each team plays six to eight games in a season and the state championship is May 23.
“Rugby is no different than lacrosse, or hockey, or basketball. It’s another option for kids,” said Good.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Council will have final say on all the rule change proposals at its May meeting. The last sport to gain MIAA status was girls’ wrestling in 2011.
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The Board approved by a 13-0 vote a proposal to limit full contact in football practices to two days a week, something that most schools do already. The proposal comes as a subcommittee of the Football and Sports Medicine Committees prepare recommendations for improved safety. Those proposals will go before the Football Committee in May and the Board of Directors expects to vote on them at its June 9 meeting . . . Proposals to make wooden bats mandatory in baseball and hockey periods 17 minutes failed.