By Dante Cabral
Many people in the United States might not have a lot of knowledge of the sport of rugby because it is mainly a European sport. But someone like Sacred Heart University’s X-Men Rugby Football Club (X-Men R.F.C.) coach Raymond Peterson, has had a lot of experience when it comes to this sport.
Peterson was born in Philadelphia, but spent most of his childhood in New Canaan, Conn. Peterson didn’t initially play rugby to start off his athletic career, but his time at the University of Connecticut (UConn) eventually changed that.
“A bunch of my buddies had played football at UConn. UConn was starting a rugby team and they kind of pressured me into trying it, and 23 years later I quit playing. I played on the first UConn Rugby team and then I played at White Plains for a year after college, and then the Connecticut Yankees started a team in Fairfield and I played for them for about 10 years. Then I played the next 10 or 12 years with the New York Athletic Club,” said Peterson.
Before rugby came into the picture, Peterson served with the United States Marines Corps in the Vietnam War.
“I thought the best way to irritate my parents was to turn all the free money down and do something absolutely insane like joining the Marine Corps and volunteering to go to Vietnam, so I did. Within the first hour of landing in Danang, we came under rocket attack, and I realized that I wasn’t in New Canaan anymore and that some people actually, without knowing what a sweet personality I had, wanted to kill me,” said Peterson.
Once Peterson left the Vietnam War he came back and started playing rugby. Eventually he would play for the United States National Team.
“I represented the U.S. in Canada, England and Buenos Aires,” said Peterson. He said that countries like Australia, South Africa and England defeated them being that the United States Rugby Team is not exactly a level one team.
Eventually, Peterson’s rugby days came to an end 23 years later after having broken fingers, broken toes, 17 broken noses and much more. Unfortunately, Peterson’s time in Vietnam is starting to catch up with him.
“As time has progressed, I have had a couple of heart surgeries, I had a brain bleed, and I just had a stroke. A lot of that is tied to Agent Orange. I was exposed to Agent Orange in Khe Sanh fighting in Vietnam. What happened 45-50 years ago is still taking its toll on people, me being one of them,” said Peterson.
Although Peterson currently coaches two teams, The Connecticut Women’s Yankees and the Sacred Heart X-Men, he seems to have a particular liking for the men’s rugby team here.
“They’re really good guys,” said Peterson. “If you talked to each one of them individually, they would probably tell you that I can be a real pain.”
Despite the team losing 14 seniors after this year, Peterson still thinks that the future is bright for the X-Men.
“We won’t have the depth that we had this year. I’m using this spring to really develop the players technical expertise, so that come the fall, I’ve got the depth that I need just in case. You’re going to lose players; it’s the nature of any contact sport. It’s just making sure that the guys that are behind them are literally right behind them, not a mile behind them,” said Peterson.