PENDLETON — Tremor Bynum likes to get physical and has found a new sport to help him do just that.
Bynum, a two-sport athlete for Pendleton Heights High School’s football and wrestling teams, is branching out this spring.
He’s one of several high school athletes around Madison County and surrounding areas taking part in a club rugby league.
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“I’ve not ever played the game before, but the head coach is my defensive coach for football, and he talked to me about it, and I thought it sounded like a lot of fun,” Bynum said.
For an athlete looking for a different kind of physical challenge, Pendleton Youth Rugby League is growing and looking for new players.
Last year league leaders added a middle school team, and this year they’re adding high school-age players to the community rugby league.
The English-born sport is gaining interest. The game is fast-paced and physical, with team members carrying, passing or kicking the ball to the end zone to score. While different from American football, it’s a hard-hitting, tough sport that’s right up Bynum’s alley.
“It’s got some of those similar aspects of football — hitting, tackling and all that fun stuff,” Bynum said.
Curt Trout, head rugby coach, is one of the adults helping establish the local league. Trout coached the game at Fishers High School for several years before coming to Pendleton Heights High School, where he now teaches English, and he loves the sport.
Trout thinks the game offers unique opportunities for area athletes who want to push themselves and try something new.
“I think part of the appeal is kids like to run around and be rough with each other,” Trout said. “This a contact sport, but statistically it’s safer than soccer and football.”
Rugby is a player-centered sport, Trout said, where the players on the field solve problems as the game evolves.
“A lot of kids thrive on the idea — that they have control of the game — that’s this new generation,” said Trout, a youth football and Pendleton Heights football coach.
Pendleton Rugby League players, an estimated 85 players from second grade through high school, will suit up for games in April and May against either high school club or community teams from Zionsville, Westfield, Noblesville, Fishers and Hamilton Southeastern.
The league currently has a flag rugby game for second- through fourth-grade players, known as the Eagles, who play seven-on-seven flag rugby. Games are typically only 15 minutes long, but athletes will play three to five contests in a game-day event.
“The action is fast-paced,” league organizer Alishea Hawkins said.
Once athletes reach fifth- and sixth-grade level, they move up to play tackle rugby. The Pendleton Youth tackle rugby team is called the Colts, and it plays 10-on-10 tackle rugby. The games are four eight-minute quarters.
Tackle players typically play one or two matches per game day.
Athletes in seventh and eighth grades also play a tackle version of rugby. The middle school-age team, the Lightning, and plays 15-on-15 tackle rugby. Their games feature 20- to 25-minute halves, and the athletes typically play one or two matches per game day.
This year Pendleton Youth Rugby League expanded to include high school-age athletes, on a team they named the Arabians, who will play 15-on-15 tackle rugby. They’ll play two 30-minute halves, and athletes will typically play one match per game day.
While Pendleton Heights High School had a club rugby team years ago, it disbanded as students graduated and left the area, Trout said. He and other leaders of the rugby league are trying to build a community program to last year in and year out with players from Pendleton and surrounding areas.
Draven Wiseman, a sophomore at Pendleton Heights High School, gave up football this year but wanted to remain active in another physical sport and joined the league. He’s become a spokesman for the game, even helping recruit some 12 players from PHHS.
“I’ve always been interested in the sport,” Wiseman said.
Wiseman likes the idea of not having to wear pads, as in football, but still being able to get physical on the field.
“I wanted a sport that was running, but at the same time, hitting and blocking,” Wiseman said. “I’m a competitive guy.”
The program is growing fast, and Trout said he can see starting a girls rugby section of the league within the next few years.
Pendleton Youth Rugby League officials recently had a call-out meeting for interested players, but they’re still open to signing up more local youth who may have missed the meeting.
League players will meet for practice and workouts from 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays until the end of February in the PHHS auxiliary gym.
For more information on signing up or to learn more about the league, call Hawkins at 765-760-8256 or email league leaders at [email protected].