“Ruck Me, Maul Me, Make Me….” What? The term is “scrum,” and it makes for more than just a suggestive tagline. As for the rucking and mauling, I asked Joe Vollmar, President of the Mayhem Rugby team, the state’s only predominantly gay rugby team, to explain.
“The scrum is basically a pile of guys trying to win the ball through sheer brute force. As for the rucking and mauling…in practice, we tell the guys that a ruck is in the muck, and a maul is tall. Use your imagination.”
Having played with Mayhem since the team started, I have spoken to a lot of guys about joining the team. So, I know what you must be thinking when you start reading about rugby: There are gay guys in this city tough enough to play rugby? Or, like most people, you’re nodding and smiling, having no clue what the sport is all about. Rugby…they play that with sticks, right? Suffice it to say, rugby is growing in popularity, and dozens of gay-friendly rugby teams are thriving all over the country. And, no, it is not played with sticks.
Vollmar is one of the founding members of the Mayhem, which is entering its fourth year. He recently began serving as secretary of the Minnesota Rugby Football Union’s board of directors, and is the first openly gay man to serve on that board.
When asked what he thought this meant for the gay community, Vollmar responded, “I think it shows that gay men can be taken seriously in this sport, despite it being stereotyped as testosterone-driven, and that such masculine stereotypes are homophobic. Our team and players have been fully accepted by all the teams we play, and we’ve received nothing but support from them.”
Vollmar also noted that gay athletes, and the Mayhem in particular, have worked hard to overcome stereotypes and misconceptions about gay and gay-friendly teams.
Can a gay rugby team welcome players who are not gay?
“Well, we are not exactly a gay team,” Vollmar explained. “We are a rugby team, first and foremost. We founded the team in the footsteps of dozens of other gay men around the country who wanted to play rugby, but were uncertain of being accepted onto straight teams.”
The main challenges of the team this year are to continue to combat stereotypes faced by gay rugby players, and to recruit both gay and straight athletes, all while staying true to its mission of being accepting to all men, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Vollmar states, “We have a place for anyone, experienced or novice, gay or straight. It does not make sense for us, as a team made up mostly of gay men, to continue the cycle of exclusion which our team’s formation was designed to end, and which today’s gay athletes continue to face.”
When queried if he had any other inspirational words for the would-be rugby player, or any other gay athlete, Vollmar answered that you don’t need to be part of a gay league to be an athlete, advising: “Play rugby.”
To learn more about the Mayhem Rugby team, or rugby in Minnesota, check out the team’s Web site at www.mayhemrfc.com.