William “Skipper” Bailey has many years of experience playing and coaching rugby. However, no rugby team exists in his home town of Mint Hill and Bailey wants to change that.
Bailey was asked to join the Charlotte Gargoyles Rugby Team after high school in the 1970s. During his career in the United States Air Force, he played rugby at Fort Bragg.
Bailey has more than 12 years of experience as a player, and six years as a coach. Most recently
he coached a rugby team at UNC-Charlotte. He currently holds the highest rugby coaching
credential possible, and has never had a losing season. Bailey believes the strong high school football traditions in the Mint Hill area makes it an ideal place to form a rugby team.
“Mint Hill is blessed to have nationally ranked high school football teams located so close,” he said. “A lot of those players may not pursue football after high school. Rugby is a game that will fill that void.”
Rugby is a physical sport that can be very appealing to some athletes. Bailey stresses the levels of stamina required to participate.
“It’s a sense of stepping into a game where we wear no pads and we do not stop the game for any reason. It is two 40 minute halves of non-stop action, and knowing that you have the endurance to last over 80 minutes of full contact.”
Most Americans are unfamiliar with the rules of rugby, but know it has similarities to American football. In football, the defense stops a ball-carrier by tackling him. Once the ball-carrier is down the play is dead and the offense retains possession for the next play. In rugby when a ball-carrier goes down he must release the ball. It can then be recovered by
either team and play continues without any stoppages.
Don’t feel like you have to be a former or current football player to play rugby. Bailey says there are places in rugby for just about anyone.
“Rugby has a position for every size, shape, model and means; short, tall, large or not. Knowing the game and your teammates, how they act under pressure, if they can play hurt, and having endurance and a sharp brain makes a rugby player successful.”
Some high schools in Charlotte currently have rugby teams, including South Meck, East Meck, and Charlotte Catholic.
In 2007 Skipper Bailey was elected into the Charlotte Rugby Hall of Fame. Since 1971, only 42 players have earned that distinction.
“I was very surprised and thankful when I found out. It is very humbling knowing that only Hallof Fame Players can vote you in. It validated me as a rugby player!”
If any athletes, young or old, are interested in playing rugby contact the Mint Hill Athletic Association, or Skipper Bailey at MintHillRugbyFootballClub@gmail.com.