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Xi'an Eurasia University Rugby Team Makes It to the National Top Four!

As Roosevelt once said, life is like playing rugby, we should not break the rules or dodge the ball but rush toward the goal line. The scene of young players running on the rugby field with cheering shouts coming from both sides of the field has become a beautiful scenery line on Xi'an Eurasian University's playground in summer.

After five years of accumulation, the Xi'an Eurasia University Pioneers American Football Team, founded in March 2018, showed its strength for the first time in competitions in 2022. This year, they won the championship of the Western Division and made it to the national top four in the 2023-2024 China University American Football League.

(Fig. 1) Group Photo of Xi'an Eurasia University Pioneers American Football Team after the Match

"This honor doesn't belong to me alone, but to all the players of Xi'an Eurasia University Pioneers American Football Team. It is because of the passion that everyone holds that we have always had the strength to persist and move forward." said Yang Lu, Coach of Xi'an Eurasia University Pioneers American Football Team.

A Team Established amid Difficulties and Obstacles

At Xi'an Eurasia University, physical education encompasses junior and senior clubs, and the idea of establishing a rugby team was put forward by students at senior clubs. With the school's support, Yang Lu and the first group of rugby-loving students co-founded the school's tackle football team, Xi'an Eurasia University Pioneers American Football Team.

(Fig. 2) Xi'an Eurasia University Pioneers American Football Team Making Its Debut at the 2018 Sports Games

However, in the early days of its establishment, the team also experienced many difficulties. When the team was formed in 2018, rugby equipment was expensive for students. The cost of a common set of equipment ranged from RMB 3,000 to RMB 4,000, so the first batch of students who joined the team were almost unequipped. After going through intermittent renting and borrowing, the second group of team members gradually started purchasing equipment.

"After acquiring some equipment, we started scheduling matches, but we failed the two games scheduled at that time." Consequently, the team began to introspect and focus on training within the school and organizing routine matches." But the team at that time also faced the problem of too few players.

"It's because rugby is a high-risk sport in the eyes of parents, coupled with dangerous activities like collisions and high-speed running. Besides, many students have to give up midway due to the inability to persist in training after joining the team. This is understandable." Yang Lu understands the concerns of parents and the withdrawals of students.

(Fig. 3) Yang Lu Motivating the Players at Half-time

"The rugby team does not have particularly strict requirements for the height and body shape of players. Different sizes are all needed, so we are not picky about the selection of players. Every year, we will select students with excellent performance in the physical examination and encourage them to actively sign up through various self-media communication channels." said Cheng Haoxin, Captain of Xi'an Eurasia University Pioneers American Football Team. After six three-hour training sessions, students who are physically fit and still love the sport can join the team as regular players.

Training with Infinite Love and Persistence

The daily training process is always arduous and long, and the team members need to sacrifice a large part of their spare time for training. It is common for the rugby team to take a shower after 10 p.m. and get up early the next day to be trained again, which is also an exercise and test of the students' stamina and perseverance.

Monday is for the offensive group's training, Tuesday is dedicated to the defensive group, Wednesday is for fitness training at the gym,

and Saturday afternoon is reserved for overall team tactical training. Training occurs four times a week, each session lasting three to four hours, sometimes with additional practice.

"The gym training is also a resource provided by the school. In this year's 20th Sports Games of Xi'an Eurasia University, the school even offered the rugby team the opportunity to play an exhibition match and provided the team with 35 sets of uniforms, a set of event materials, and equipment such as helmet protectors. As a result, we have recruited 4-5 new team members." Yang Lu expressed his gratitude towards the school during the interview.

(Fig. 4) Group Photo of the Rugby Team at the Exhibition Match during the 20th Sports Games

The standard number of players for a rugby team is 51, while Xi'an Eurasia University Pioneers American Football Team currently has only 38 players. The students are busy with academic schedules and exams, often resulting in a shortage of players during matches. This situation places stricter demands on the players' physical fitness on the field: a normal game consists of four rounds, requiring different sets of 11 players. As Xi'an Eurasia University does not have that many players, the students on the field need to endure and complete the entire game. "For everyone, speed, endurance, physical strength, and team cohesion are all tested at a higher level," said Yang Lu.

(Fig. 5) Team Members Cheering Themselves On before Each Match

Rugby is not the rough and rugged sport as perceived by common stereotypes. In fact, it requires high emotional intelligence, problem-solving skills, as well as a combination of high self-discipline and remarkable perseverance. Rugby tactics are extremely complex, with all codes on the field in English. Common routes like "in" and "out" are the most basic. A series of full English route codes such as "post", "corner", "go", "come back", and "curl" must be mastered proficiently. Once the tactical numbers on the field are edited, players must memorize them accurately. Continuous communication with teammates on the field and in-depth discussions with coaches off-field are essential basic skills that a rugby team member should possess.

(Fig. 6) Daily Scenes of Training and Competitions

"The most memorable experience for me was the match we participated in at Anyang. As it was an away game, and everyone had different economic conditions, we split into three groups, using three different modes of transportation to converge. Sometimes during the final exam period, only two or three of us would come for training. Equipment, funding, and manpower are difficulties that the team frequently encounters, but we have all persevered," said Team Captain Cheng Haoxin.

(Fig. 7) Group Photo at the First Match in the Western Division of China University American Football League

Growing through Competitions and Making Dreams Come True

Despite the difficulties and obstacles encountered by the team since its establishment, Yang Lu has never given up his deep love for rugby. Whether it is the immediate realistic problems of funding and equipment or the frequent replacement of players due to the graduation of students, coupled with the need to lead new recruits to adapt to different positions on the field, these challenges are no longer obstacles for Yang Lu.

Since 2022, the team has participated in various events:

On May 14, 2022, in a friendly match against the Xi'an Phantom Adults American Football Team, despite having fewer players, they only lost by one point, which became their starting point for victory.

On March 4, 2023, In the match against the Xijing University Raven American Football Team, they secured a 48-8 victory in the away game.

On April 29, 2023, the team played against Anyang Toucans American Football Team in the away game with a 34-0 victory; this was the first away victory of rugby teams from Northwest China.

On April 13-14, 2024, the team made it to the national top four in the "First Light Bowl" China University American Football League Finals.

(Fig. 8) Group Photo of the Team before Participating in the National League in Shanghai

After five years of enrichment and accumulation, the Xi'an Eurasia University Pioneers American Football Team began to shine. This sport has changed many players on the team, and they have made great progress and personal growth from it.

"Football helped me get rid of my Internet addiction. I used to be a person who loved playing games and often skipped classes, so I was lazy in my studies. Since I joined the rugby team, my body clock has become regular and I have developed a good habit of going to bed early and getting up early. I no longer have extra energy to spare for games in my spare time; I am usually on the training field. I am more focused when studying, and my grades have seen a significant improvement. Life has become more fulfilling, and I am very happy and energetic every day," said Team Member Wang Weihao.

(Fig. 9) Group Photo of the Fourth-generation Players and Coach Yang Lu (the Second from Right in the Front Row)

"In the past, I lacked perseverance in exercise. Now, as the captain of the rugby team, I bear the mission of making the team stronger day by day. The belief in always wanting to win inspires me. Now I go training at the gym every day. I have learned to overcome my laziness and have become more disciplined. I am more focused and efficient in my studies. I have also developed a love for the fulfilling feeling of controlling my own life," said Team Captain Cheng Haoxin.

(Fig. 10) Intense Match against the team of Beijing Union University

"Our team is a very cohesive one, everyone is very united. With 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter of this league, both attacking and defending teams were getting better and better. We all played very hard with the belief that we would win in the last 8 minutes. In life, there are many '8-minute' intervals where we need to charge forward, persevere, and strive. Pushing to the extreme is where success lies," shared Yang Lu, reflecting on the lessons sports teach in character development.

(Fig, 11) The First Match with Xi'an Fanyi University

In Yang Lu's opinion, there are four secrets for the Xi'an Eurasia University Pioneers American Football Team to constantly make progress toward their dreams: "First of all, we should have faith. Only when the goal is clear can we know how to work in a specific direction, rather than radiating strength without a clue; the second is hard work. To strive for the goal, it is not enough to rely on efforts alone. One must also learn to relax appropriately to persevere continuously; the most important thing in rugby is teamwork, entrusting your back to your teammates without worry, always believing in them and yourself."

The Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028 will include flag football, which gives Yang Lu more reason to be full of hope and confidence. He also hopes that more people will truly love this sport in the future.

"A simple start holds immense potential for growth and promising horizons. From high schools to universities and then to adult football teams, I hope that the overall sports system for rugby can be more professional and perfect. I hope that every team can hold onto the belief of 'twisting together as a tough rope' and continue positive, sunny, and healthy growth in this sport."

(Contributed by the School of General Education)