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Moon superintendent starts rugby program

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By Justin Criado
Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

After talking to Curt Baker for a few minutes, it's clear how passionate he is about rugby.

“No other sport gives you such an intense sense of selflessness and unified purpose,” Baker said. “I believe this is why rugby players all over the world feel such a passion for the game and such a feeling of brotherhood.”

It's from that passion that the Moon superintendent will start a rugby program at the school and serve as head coach.

“I think the core reason to coaching a team sport goes to a broader concept. I think it's really significant and really important that the superintendent not lose touch with his students,” Baker added. “For me personally, this is as great a vehicle that exits to be able to remain close to students within the school system.”

In 2003, Baker started a rugby program at Unionville High School, just outside of Philadelphia, and molded it in to one of the best in the state. En route to winning the 2013 Rugby Pennsylvania state championship last spring, Baker defeated another rugby power — Burrell — in the semifinals.

“They were huge last year,” Burrell coach Ron Zanella said. “He did a good job. He got them ready.”

Baker said during his time as Unionville's coach, he saw tremendous growth within the athletes he had, many of whom went on to play during college, and that's what he hopes to bring to Moon.

“I think it's been warmly received,” Baker said. “I think that at the end of the day our job is to provide a great learning experience to our students. If this adds to that process I think that's warmly embraced.”

While at a varsity basketball game last week, Baker described an incident where a student came up to him and expressed how excited he was for the rugby team, and that'd he helped recruit as many people as he could.

“That's about as good as news as I could hear,” Baker said.

Often labeled as “football without pads” by those unfamiliar with the sport, rugby tends to resemble the wide-open play of soccer more than anything.

As a lifelong rugger, Barker played collegiality at the University of Southern California, Tufts University and the London School of Economics before playing several more years of club rugby. Both of his sons played for Penn State University. As a testament to the camaraderie and self-discipline taught through playing rugby, Baker shares an excerpt from Nando Parrado's book “Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home.” The passage explains the bond Parrado formed with his teammates.

“To the Christian Brothers (rugby club), rugby was more than a game, it was sport raised to the level of a moral discipline,” Parrodo wrote. “At its heart was the ironclad belief that no other sport taught so devoutly the importance of striving, suffering and sacrificing in the pursuit of a common goal.”

The rugby program will be school affiliated, but not school sponsored since it isn't PIAA sport. The team will participate in Rugby Pennsylvania, which is the state ordinance of USA Rugby. Signups and a general information meeting will be on Jan. 7. The season will run from March through May with scrimmages starting in late February.

Justin Criado is a freelance writer.

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