By John Nguyen
Club sports have been a part of the college experience for decades. They provide opportunities for students to bond for a particular sport and share that appreciation with other like-minded students. Rugby is no different, but there’s something special to the two teams of the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University that contributes a meaningful piece to their character—a jacket tradition.
Starting about 50 years ago, this tradition calls for graduating students to pass their rugby jackets to those who they determine to be dedicated to the team. However, this decision isn’t made alone. Usually, it is a group decision between members of the team. Some jackets have certain requirements, such as a
jacket may be passed down from a player who holds a certain position on the field to another of a similar position (i.e. forwards to forwards and backs to backs). Another example would be if they hold an officer position.
When a student receives a jacket, they will hold onto it until they graduate or leave the college or university early. Most students on the team see the jackets as a sense of pride, commitment and leadership on the team. CSB sophomore player Quinn Hynes-Marquette said that these qualities are in “something that I can touch and feel.”
The women’s team have six to eight jackets in circulation while men have 15, calling them “red and “blue” coats, respectively. This number seems small to the
current number who play for the teams, with the CSB rugby team has approximately 20 to 25 women and the SJU team has a range from 35 to 40 men.
With the ratio of jackets to players, the tradition may be something selective or
tense-ridden, however, that is not the case. The passing of jackets “isn’t a picking-and-choosing certain people to divide the team,” Hynes-Marquette said. “It’s something to bring our team together.”
Every year, each each team gets organized and distributes the graduating students’ jackets to the new generation of rugby players.
“It can be seen as a very emotional moment,” CSB senior captain Becky Timmons said.
The memories of past members are represented on each individual jacket. On Timmons’ jacket, the names of alumni are on the inside. The SJU rugby team, rather than names, some jackets have patches that are representative of that
person’s character, such as a patch from different countries from a study abroad
program, or a patch that has a certain nickname of a player. After a jacket is passed on, the student who had possession of the jacket either gets their name or patch sewn into the jacket.
This tradition resonates highly with the players in their own ways. Both Timmons and Hynes-Marquette said that for them, it represents unity amongst the team in general. Last May, the SJU rugby team had their 50th reunion celebration with
alumni from the CSB and SJU rugby teams, and alumni met with current players to see jackets passed on to new recipients.
SJU senior Louis Pennings said that there were many alumni who commented on his jacket being the same one they wore when they played for St. John’s.
“It’s cool to see that tradition being carried on,” Pennings said.
When a jacket gets too old for wear, they get retired.Usually, they would be
replaced by a newer jacket. SJU senior captain Noah Hynes-Marquette’s jacket is an exception.
“I have probably the oldest jacket [on the team]” Hynes-Marquette said. “[With the jacket] it doesn’t unite just the team but generations of players.”
Other colleges and universities outside of CSB/SJU have similar traditions, but CSB and SJU are very sentimental and in-depth.
“It’s something that truly belongs to St. Ben’s and St. John’s,” Timmons said.
Currently, both the CSB and SJU rugby teams are preparing for playoffs on Oct. 27 where they will face a culmination of teams that they have faced before in their season. Wearing these jackets represent their team, not only right now, but with the support of past players.
FEATURE PHOTO BY ASHLEY GROEBNER • [email protected] •
From left to right: Quinn Hynes-Marquette (sophomore), Meredith Jarchow (senior), Bri Rimas (senior) and Katarina Podewils (junior) showcase their jackets that were passed down.