Men’s rugby club combines faith with competition
April 27, 2021
William Getschow flanks the scrum while Justen Brignac prepares to secure and distribute the ball to the backs in the fall 2019 cup match against Galveston RFC. (Photo courtesy of Paul Latino/Downrock Creative)
HOUSTON — It seemed a bit of a crazy idea at first — starting a Catholic rugby club for men in a town where football, basketball and baseball suck up almost all of the oxygen.
Mike Schaad wanted to take up the sport that he’d loved playing in college, but after searching around for a club that offered competitive rugby and a family-friendly environment, he came up short. So Schaad and a friend decided to start their own club that blended faith and family with competition, and the Arrows Rugby Club was born.
“I wanted to start playing again, but I found a lot of clubs I’d grown up knowing didn’t really fit the type of person I was trying to be,” Schaad said.
That was the spring of 2016, and Schaad, now on his own, needed teammates and a place to practice and play. Using his contacts and putting the word out on social media, Schaad cobbled together a team to start the season that March. He also put in a call to Jason Kimball, then the athletic director at St. Pius X High School, to ask for help.
“Mike Schaad called me up with a request to use the St. Pius field, and I thought, ‘this poor guy — he’ll never end up getting this up and going,’” said Kimball, now head rugby coach and director of the Academic Resource Center at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory and occasional player. “But it’s grown and continues to grow, and I think that’s a testament to Mike Schaad’s vision.”
Named for St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes who was shot with arrows, the club is all about developing men both spiritually and physically while offering the opportunity for healthy competition.
“Really, it’s an evangelistic opportunity on and off the field,” said Club President Blake Pellerin, who came back to the Church when he met his wife. “Primarily, we want to present the club in a way where guys strive to be better men.”
Pellerin said the recognition from Daniel Cardinal DiNardo strengthens the club’s relationship with the Catholic rugby community and promotes stronger ties with Catholic community partners. He said it also comes with responsibilities, which involve staying true to the club’s mission with discipline and integrity of faith and morals.
Practices are twice a week, while there are varying spiritual formation programs after practice — depending on the season. In the fall, there is Scripture study. Arrows Tales, in which members share their faith journey, is in the spring. Summer is for philosophical discussions, which cover a range of topics on everything from sin to friendship.
Pellerin, 33, started playing rugby at St. Thomas High School and went on to play as a student at Texas A&M and later for Houston Athletic Rugby Club until injury and family life got in the way. That he enjoyed playing rugby was a given, but the idea of a faith-based, family-friendly club made the Arrows more appealing.
“One of my favorite things about rugby is that it gives you a framework,” said Pellerin, now in his second year of a two-year stint as club president. “Rugby is non-stop playing — the coaches aren’t calling the shots. You have to make decisions on the fly and develop a framework. Plus, it’s just a cool, global thing to do.”
Brett Owens had never played rugby until he joined the club in 2018 to satisfy his need for some “rough and tumble” and for the family-friendly, faith-based environment. A long-time fan of rugby and former high school football player, Owens, 40, said he liked that the Arrows offered a combination of the physical and the “manly” alongside the mission of Christian virtue and forming men. He also appreciates being able to bond with men from different backgrounds and mentor the younger men.
“We have the opportunity to influence the lives of men from youth to retirement,” said Owens, who was raised Methodist and converted to Catholicism when he met his wife.
Looking ahead, Pellerin said they are working on establishing a youth program and want to add more teams to play in all three divisions. The current team plays in Division 3.
The Arrows Rugby Football Club is nearing the end of its fifth season, with the penultimate match against the Kingwood Crusaders scheduled for 2 p.m. May 8 at Kingwood’s home field. The final match is against Galveston RFC at 2 p.m. at Our Savior Lutheran. The May 8 match will be in recognition of the Knights of Columbus.
Founded in 2016 as a Catholic community with the purpose of forming men in Christian virtue through competitive rugby, the Arrows RFC currently has some 40 active players, ranging in age from 18 to 42, reflecting a steady growth from its inception. There is also a supporters club for those who want to be involved in formation and the social aspects.
The club currently has one team that plays in the Texas Rugby Union’s Red River Rugby Conference but continues to seek new players, supporters, volunteers and fans. The club, a private association of the faithful recognized by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, is open to people of any faith, with the expectation that members strive to uphold the Arrows code of conduct.
Practices are from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Knights of Columbus Council # 2917, 607 E. Whitney St. Formation is after practice. For more information, visit www.ArrowsRugby.com.