The oldest rugby club in Chicago is the Lions. They are in the midst of celebrating their 50th anniversary. Patrick O'Reilly, the club's president told me a lot about the club, it's past, where it is, and where it hopes to go in the coming years. Like any club, they have their reputation, but part of that reputation is being a power house in the sport, particularly 7s. O'Reilly told me
We have had kids come out and it's not for them. One person told me that we were 'too hardcore'
O'Reilly also said that for the Lions, rugby is not just a two practices a week sport, but something that is expected to be worked on daily by club members. Players have access to daily online, position specific workouts by Chris Gizzi, who is a former NFL player, and the strength coach currently for the Green Bay Packers. Aside from the online workouts done on your own, in the off season there are some two a day work outs. Some are simple, some are hard. There are also commitments social and charitable expected of players, like helping out iYRA, Wapitti, or Hope Academy. It is a "full commitment" team.
We strive to be the best club in the country and that starts with being the best in the Midwest.We are in the process of buying, not just leasing the field we currently have so there can be a home field not just for us, but any rugby club in the city. The team is expanding ourselves, D1, D3, Men's and Women's 7s program. There is an 'Old Boy' network of 800+. There are player apartment to help house guys to get on their feet [who come to Chicago from out of town]. We're willing to help guys in anyway that they can.
The team is made up of guy from all over. One thing that is important to the club though, is that they want domestic talent. O'Reilly stressed that they Lions don't pay players, because they want to grow rugby in t
If they can get here n their own, we'll take them in, but we are not actively recruiting from over seas. We probably get about two inquiries a day from player over seas, asking if we'll pay them, and it's clear on our website that we do not. There's [players], that come out and never played before... [but are] just a great athletes. They can be told what to do, does it, and any athlete with training can pick up this game.he U.S. He says,
The team has many recent college graduates, and a few who are right out of High School, and men's and women's senior clubs start at +18. The majority of players are between 18-33. They currently play on Hope Field, as they are tired into Hope Academy, and partnered with their team and help coach youth players . Being tied into Chicago Hope, they use the Quest academy and night lit field for training.
Dues for the season can change with the economy and sponsorship, like with any team. Currently for 15s, it $200, field practice is Tuesday and Thursdays. Their field is at Rossevelt and Odgen. They also work with Athletico (a sponsor) to do preseason base line concussion testing. O'Reilly added that
We don't want to hit them too hard [with dues] and try to keep it as low as possibles. What players put out doesn't even come close to the spend.
I also asked clu
bs about what events are unique to their club. The Lions have fun events, like beach touch rugby (every Wednesday night in the summer at Montrose Beach). The winning team buys Boones Farm for loosing team, to "keep it classy". They also host a benefit for Chicago Hope, golf outing, and an annual banquet. This year for the 50th, they are planning to more than likely tie into other events in and around the city. They do drink-ups, fund raisers and get-togethers. They also have a 501 c3 Chicago Lions Charitable Association (CLCA) that is aimed to grown the sport in the city and can be used by any team and anyone can donate to it.