The Principia rugby team has undoubtedly been a source of pride for the college. Not only do they boast a national championship trophy, but the team’s unwavering love for each other has also been recognized on multiple occasions.
Each year the team loses a few of its powerful players when seniors graduate. Replacing their strong leadership is never an easy feat. The team balances improving their athletic skills with improving their brotherhood. Each player has their own individual goals and values they prioritize but the spiritual atmosphere of the team is just as valuable.
Sophomore team manager Robby Butler discussed how hard it can be for players to let go of “self-ego” but how team members must do this in order to serve a deeper cause. He said, “People are interested in being their best self for the team because the best player is one who is committed enough to work hard in every aspect of his life. So we are all working on that same goal together, and we’ve made good progress this year as well.”
Butler also mentioned how he has personally benefited from such strong individual leadership, especially when he first started as a freshman. He said, “Brannon Wittenberg has been so solid on the field. He’s pushed himself and pushed everyone else to play… on his level, and that has been very inspirational.”
Many players said the team’s spiritual atmosphere is the best it has been for years, but there are differing opinions as to why this is. The one thing that is unanimous is players’ immense respect for their coach Ward Patterson.
Senior and returning rugby player Sergio Zapata Cornejo said that his personal motivation came from all his teammates, but primarily the example set by Coach Ward Patterson. Cornejo stated, “Ward is a coach who really [stands out]… because his main goal is not to better rugby but to better character—to be a real man. [He is] a man who loves everyone: [he] treats friends, family, and especially women with respect and love. He sees the good side in all the players—no matter if you have experience, no matter if you are a beginner—he loves everyone as equals. We are so grateful to have a coach like that.”
Many members of the team have commented on Ward’s unconditional love for team members and his firm stance on what is acceptable on the team. The players are constantly reminded that success on the field is an important goal but what the team values the most is the solidify their character.
College sports teams have received a great deal of negative publicity in current media. They are often portrayed as centers of poor moral choices and misogyny. But Principia’s rugby team avoids this stigma through their commitment to character on and off the field.