by Airman 1st Class Cary Smith
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
1/15/2016 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- BALL OUT!
A ball spirals into play and rugby players thunder down the field.
Cold breaths linger in the air and hands feel numb as the new rugby team practices in the early sunset.
"I wanted to start a rugby team here at Aviano after falling in love
with the sport in Korea," said Staff Sgt. Lee Cundiff, 31st Civil
Engineer Squadron explosive ordinance disposal journeyman. "Rugby is a
fun, physically demanding sport."
The team meets every Tuesday and Thursday, warms up and runs through
several practice drills to challenge the team's critical thinking skills
and build physical endurance.
While on the field, players constantly evaluate both offensive and
defensive positions and possible plays to execute. The sport is a
continuous flow of action with lines of players shifting back and forth.
The game's fluid motion requires players to know where they should be
at all times and where the other team plans to move the ball.
Despite the physically demanding nature of the game, everyone is
encouraged to join regardless of fitness level. The camaraderie of the
sport allows everyone to fit in with the rugby family.
"I knew nothing about the sport, so I decided to come to a practice"
said Airman 1st Class Christopher Linn, 31st CES fire fighter. "Now that
I've seen the drills and met the players, I see myself sticking with
So why does this new team work through bruises and bitter cold? They
push themselves to prepare for mental and physical challenges they may
face during scrimmages and matches.
"I'm coordinating with local Italian rugby teams, and if we can get into
a league, we can try to compete in tournaments." said Cundiff.
The new team will experience European cultures first hand when they play
against teams in local communities and surrounding countries. Cundiff
and his teammates hope to build a solid group of participants to take
advantage of these travel opportunities.
"We are in the process of becoming an official team, and with each practice we see more and more people joining." said Cundiff.
As the team grows, the players can look forward to building a social bond reinforced by the hard work they put in each week.
"There is no other sport like rugby, with the full contact and the
brotherhood," said Tech. Sgt. Samuel Howard, 31st Maintenance Squadron
nondestructive inspection assistant NCO in charge. "What you bring to
the field is what you leave on it."
Team members challenge themselves to achieve top physical performance
while building teamwork skills. According to Cundiff, rugby touches on
many of the pillars of the RUfit framework because it requires the
Airmen to develop mental, physical and social skills.
"We hope to see this team snowball enough to play seven on seven matches
in the spring and have large matches in the fall," said Howard. "There
is a chance to start something great here, to compete and maybe even
travel to other countries."
The players continue with jaw-jarring tackles as they strengthen their
brotherhood and look to a bright future of representing Aviano Air Base,