My name is Thor Sutphen ’21, and I’m a junior at Clarkson University studying engineering and management. I have been the rugby club president for two years now and have been involved in coaching the team since before we signed our coach. I have played rugby since my first year of high school for my hometown club, the Syracuse Silverbacks.
I transferred to Clarkson from SUNY Cortland, where I played Division I rugby and was on a team that went 7-0 during the regular season. I primarily play scrum half, fly half and inside center. During my athletic career, I was always a huge football fan/player. Football was my favorite sport by far growing up, and I loved the team bond I formed with my teammates. I also wrestled and played baseball until my first year, but found less enjoyment playing those sports.
I started playing rugby in the spring and wasn’t sure if I would stick with it. Rugby didn’t make much sense in the beginning. I got frustrated with myself for not understanding what was going on, because I was so used to football, where you rush the edge and pass the ball forward. It didn’t really click fully until my first year had ended, but I fell in love with the game. Although football will always have a spot in my heart, rugby became my life during high school.
Once I came to Clarkson, I knew I wanted to bring the love I have for the game here and help others enjoy rugby the way that I have. Although I am involved in other clubs and activities on campus, including the wrestling club, and am in a fraternity, the rugby team is my passion and will be what I am most proud of when I graduate.
The Clarkson University Men’s Rugby Club has existed for over 40 years and has recently been one of the most successful clubs on campus. In the fall semester of 2019, our club was ranked 11th in the nation by the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO). We also came in second in New York state after losing a tough-fought game against No. 6-ranked Ithaca College.
In the past two years, our club has increased participation from roughly 15-20 players to 30-35 players. We have also just signed our own head coach, Forrest Morgan, a former Division I (D-I) football and rugby player at American International College.
Since Forrest has taken over as coach, we have placed in every single tournament we’ve entered during our spring season. We have a regular season record of 8-1 (the one loss coming from the state championship game). We have also had an outstanding points-for vs. points-against record, matching up against our opponents 446 points to 62. Our team is looking to be successful this spring, as well in our 7s season, striving for the NSCRO 7s National Championship in Boston.
Clarkson Rugby wants to further advance our club’s recognition on campus by having the field by Woodstock turned into a full-sized rugby pitch with regulation posts. We play all of our games locally during the regular season. Our league consists of Hamilton College, Paul Smith’s College, SUNY Plattsburgh, St. Lawrence University and SUNY Potsdam. Once the regular season ends, we move into the NSCRO playoffs.
This past year, NSCRO expanded to adopt all of the former D-II teams, which means our region has nearly doubled in size. We now play teams including SUNY Geneseo, Nazareth College and Niagara University. These teams used to play against SUNY Cortland, SUNY Oswego and SUNY Binghamton, who are now all D-I programs. We are looking to eventually become successful enough to become a D-I program as well.
About Our Club
Our team atmosphere is built on the idea that everyone is here because they want to be, not because they have to be. Most of our members say that our team brings back the feeling of that high school sports team bond. All of us come together to play rugby, but also to find great friendships in our time at Clarkson.
Clarkson Rugby has a great dynamic among individuals, including former wrestlers, football players, soccer players, lacrosse players and even a few high school rugby players. We also come from different backgrounds on campus. Individuals involved in Greek life are also represented. In the past two years, we have had members of Delta Upsilon, Alpha Chi Rho, Zeta Nu, Sigma Chi and Tau Kappa Epsilon. In fact, many of our members have become a part of a Greek organization through the men’s rugby club. We embrace everyone’s off-the-field involvement on campus.
We are always accepting new members and do not discriminate or shame anyone for not understanding the game. Most of the team has never played rugby before college, and everyone starts somewhere. We hold introductory practices for new members at the beginning of every season, but still encourage new members to join throughout the season.
In recent years, we have found a lot of success with recruiting foreign exchange students to join our club. This past fall, we had four such students in our club, each from different countries: Ireland, Scotland, England and Australia. Foreign exchange students bring a great dynamic to our group, not only from a rugby perspective — considering they are often more experienced — but also from a social standpoint. We get to interact with people from all over the world and learn about what their culture is like as opposed to ours. This also allows players from Clarkson who are thinking about traveling abroad to get an unbiased view of what our partnering schools from across the world are really like.
Practices and Commitment
We understand that the workload at Clarkson is heavy and that a lot of first-year students need to feel out how to be successful at college before joining any clubs. That being said, you do not need to be at every single practice in order to play.
We practice four to five times a week, Monday to Friday, from 5-7 p.m. and play games on Saturdays. Most members can only make two to three practices a week due to class, homework, projects and exams, and we understand that we all go to college for school, rather than for games. We would like members to make an effort to be at as many practices as possible, because each practice is another opportunity to improve yourself and have fun, but we don’t frown upon missing a couple practices a week.
Players who show the most improvement and commitment will get more playing time than those who are unable to attend, but that is not to say that players who have other commitments and cannot make practice will not get to play.
If any incoming first-year students, exchange students thinking about Clarkson, or students already enrolled are interested in playing or learning more about the Clarkson Men’s Rugby Club, feel free to contact us!
Facebook: Clarkson University Men’s Rugby
Club President: Thor Sutphen
Phone: (315) 753-2776