By: Rikki Greenberg
My first mistake was comparing rugby to American football.
There were no yard lines, no third-down conversions and no bodies protected with pads. I tried to compare the scoring portion of the field to that of an end zone, but that didn’t really work either. The game wasn’t played on a field, but on a pitch. I did recognize goal posts, but they were much smaller and shorter than what I’m used to seeing on a Sunday afternoon.
I also wondered where I could wipe off the possible buckets of perspiration with a handy hot pink Gatorade towel or if I could quench my thirst with any number of bright orange Gatorade dispensers scattered across the sidelines. Sadly, there wasn’t an opportunity to do either.
You could imagine my relief when David Selimos, Scrumhalf for the Chicago Lions, compared his position to that of a quarterback. Hallelujah! A term I finally understand!
“The team comes up with a plan that my position enacts and tries to adhere to during the match, while also keeping the idea that the game plan may change based upon what the opposition puts in front of us,” said Selimos. “It is also my job to know when to step back and let others do their job without me having to direct what’s going on.”
David Selimos (a.k.a. ‘Davey’, ‘Slimey’, ‘Tinkerbell’ and my personal favorite ‘The Great One’) is going into his fifth season as a Chicago Lion and has been with the club since he was 18. According to Davey’s mother, his relationship with rugby dates back to the early teenage years (which he doesn’t remember all that well). So how does an American boy become interested in a sport that is predominately played outside of the United States?
“My father and brother played for the Northern Woodsmen, and before that my father played for the Chicago Blaze.” Selimos explained. “My early exposure [to rugby] by my father gave me a certain degree of interest in it and once I had my chance to play I made sure to do so.”
In the fall of 2003 through the spring of 2004, during his senior year of high school, Selimos was a member of the USA Under- 19 Rugby team before trying out for the Lions. The exclusive team demands a three month selection process that involves traveling to different tryout camps and trial games. Being a member of the USA U19 Rugby team allowed Selimos exposure to a Super-League level of rugby that would prepare him (well…almost) for his future playing days at the same level.
“I had the world cup qualifier in Georgetown, Guyana (South America) and then the Junior World Cup tournament in South Africa,” said Selimos. “Both of those trips are among my favorite memories, and I continue to keep in touch with some of those teammates even now.”
In the Fall of 2004/Spring of 2005, Selimos split his time between the Lions and taking classes at Illinois State University. The accounting major remembers his beginning years as a cocky rookie until a pad workout with a member of the team opened his eyes to men’s level rugby.
“I was practicing tackling with the team and my partner was Chris Brankin. I was a little nervous and I wanted to show these guys what I could do, so I went to go tackle Brankin,” said Selimos. “He must of locked his knees or something because I was hurting really bad after that.”
The 23-year-old has since dropped his arrogant approach for a more humble one and with five seasons on his resume, Selimos expresses nothing but appreciation and gratitude toward his Chicago rugby club.
“There is a certain bond shared or connection made through being a part of our club. There is always someone willing to help in any way, whether they are a current player with you or a retired player who’s long done playing. Most of us live with other guys on the club, we spend our weekends and New Year’s together, we stand up in each other’s weddings,” said Selimos. “It’s a whole different experience all together.”
Thank you for reading our new column Sidetracked, where we branch out to bring you the best in non-mainstream Midwestern sports talent and off-the-beaten-path discussion topics. Remember, you read it here first at The SportsBank.net.