SUNY Plattsburgh men’s rugby has a long history of success and winning. Just as recently as 2016 the team won their championship on an undefeated season. In 2018, they went undefeated again but lost to Ithaca in the playoffs. This generation of Plattsburgh men’s rugby is led by north country’s own Tyler Callahan, Callahan is a senior studying criminal justice. Since his freshman year, Callahan has had a strong pulse on the team and immediately became a coach on the field.
“He brings master core structure to the table,” Luke Ovidias, president of the club, said. “He is so good at the fundamentals of the game, it helps when there are a lot of new players on the team.” Callahan has been playing for 6 years and was looking for some kind of alternate to football, a sport he played in high school.
“Going into it I heard it was the closest thing to football without being football,” Callahan said. “gave it a try and ended up loving it ever since.” He was pretty good at sports in high school and definitely had the talent to play for a varsity rugby team. He ended up not taking the option of playing for a varsity and went the club route to SUNY Plattsburgh.
“My high school coach was the coach in Plattsburgh.” Callahan said, “I was looking at different options, I thought about Oswego, thought about Cortland, but my coach did not necessarily seal the deal, but it worked out. I was an hour away from home and I could jump right back off where I left off with the coach.”
On a club team, anybody can play. There are no tryouts and most of the people on the roster have never touched a rugby ball until they step on the pitch. Many of them have played other sports like football and baseball. Callahan’s job has become to get these new players up to speed so they can compete at a high level.
“You definitely start at the basics.” Callahan said. “It’s so much fun to just start back over and teach people one on one and then bring them up to the next level. It takes a lot of time and patience. It’s a great experience not just for them but for me as well.” It’s different playing a sport and teaching it at the same time.”
Callahan has taken on the leadership role on the team, and even at his short stature, he still manages to lead the team in tackles most matches.
“I’m a small dude. I always have a chip on my shoulder about being the smallest guy. I have to work harder and be tougher,” Callahan said. “Tackling and making plays on defense comes naturally because I’m used to working harder, just grinding it out until I’m successful.”
During the pandemic, the team lost a lot of the major players due to graduation and online classes. The only thing Callhan and the other senior players had to do was recruit, and get the numbers on the team up.
“The main focus right out of the gate was we had to recruit.” “The first thing the club did when they got back to campus was set up a meeting and table at the club fair.”
Callahan is currently enlisted in the United States Army. His toughness, discipline and leadership shows on the pitch everytime Callahan touches the ball.
“There’s a lot of discipline in the Army and when I’m able to take that discipline and just apply it in game play,” Callahan said. “When you force people to keep up that standard and make them feel like they have to, it changes a game because discipline is everything. Whether it be how you line up for a ball, how far you line up, even communication is discipline.”
Callahan is ready to take this fall season to the next level as Plattsburgh looks to the next generation of rugby players to continue the club and their winning ways.