The rugby practice field at Hyde Leadership Public Charter School bears little resemblance to the manicured lawns of the English boarding school where the sport was born. It is more brown than green, and sirens sometimes drown out the shouts of players. Then there are the occasional interruptions, like when play was briefly halted during a recent practice as a man darted about wildly on a nearby street, calling football plays and evading imaginary tacklers.
But this patch of mud and grass is more than the home of what is believed to be the nation’s first all-African-American high school rugby team. It is also where a growing number of students have been exposed to a sport they once knew nothing about and to parts of society that once seemed closed to them.
Hyde players have a hard time explaining rugby to friends who do not attend their school and who do not know much about the sport. Others say things like, “You’re crazy, that’s a white person’s sport,” said Lawrenn Lee, a senior on the team. One parent, Clifford Lancaster, recalled his reaction when his son Salim announced he was going to play: “My eyes got this big. I said, ‘That’s a wild sport.’ “