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The Elephants Rugby Team

Text: Emma van Dormalen Media: Jeroen Cox Graphics: Joch Jansz

ESCR The Elephants is Eindhoven’s very own student rugby association. It’s a small club, consisting of two men teams and a ladies team, and it’s a tight-knit group of friends. I spoke with Harm Campmans and Hendrik de Pecker about what it’s like to be part of the Elephants.

Although ESRC The Elephants is a relatively small association, they are growing. New members are often also new to rugby. During the introduction weeks they get to know the club and want to try it out. Harm played a bunch of different sports before he joined the Elephants: “I love rugby because it’s a team sport. I also love the rugby mindset, on the field we want to achieve, but after the game the atmosphere is very relaxed.”

Do you have to be tough to play rugby?

Harm: “I pour a lot of my frustration into playing rugby, pushing your shoulder into someone’s stomach is just very effective for that.  You need just to find that fire within yourself.” Hendrik: “Some use frustration, others are just big! The big guys just crash into the defence like a big led ball, they make use of their size to gain meters. One of our members Bart is really like the ‘Big Friendly Giant’, both on and off the field. My girlfriend also always calls us a bunch of big teddybears.” Harm: “But she doesn’t have to compete against us!”

Sounds dangerous!

Hendrik: “Well, this year has actually been a year where many people got injured. At the start of the season there are always about 50 people. Of course some people quit, but then it’s also been ‘concussion here, broken collarbone there’ and now we are struggling to get a full team together for our final matches. Last year, shin splints seemed to be the trend. This year concussions are popular. Rugby isn’t actually that susceptible to injury, but you take a good hit every once in while and you need to know your limits. For this reason it’s usually people who are new to the sport who get injured more often. During training we teach how to keep stable when you get tackled, and when you fall how to fall properly. If you perform a tackle you need to learn how to get up quickly and you always need to make visible to the referee that you let go of that person immediately. It’s not just a bunch of guys running into each other, there’s a lot more to it than first meets the eye.” Harm: “What I really like is that there is apparently enough team-spirit for anyone who is injured to still come to the training. When I had shin splint last year I would still come watch my teammates train, they’re still your group of guys.”

And what about the group mentality outside the field?

Hendrik: “What I like best about the atmosphere of the club is that there is a lot of respect for each other. Outside the field there is no macho behavior and when there are problems they are openly discussed.”

Morale is also boosted with plenty of drinks. Every four weeks the Elephants get together in their favourite bar Kafee Kix (jacket and tie – but not necessarily pants – required) and there is an annual weekend abroad called Trip, where most legendary stories within the club come from. Harm: ‘Our club has some unwritten rules that work like an all-year-round drinking game. There is one ‘chosen one’ appointed as Commisaris Olifant (commisioner elephant) who is in charge of these rules. You’ll never see an Elephant point at something for example and since I’ve joined the Elephants I have a lot of trouble saying the verb ‘to think’ aloud.’ Hendrik: ‘The girls tank just as hard as the guys, board member Merel brings up the everage quite a bit!’ Another rule is that for every official Elephant activity, members have to wear a jacket and club tie. Hendrik: ‘But pants aren’t explicitly required, and a jacket could also be a bathrobe or adidas jacket.’ One shouldn’t take themselves too seriously I suppose.

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