Rugby player leads by example

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Leading by example is Jake Harter’s core principle when it comes to playing sports.

Harter’s actions have shaped him into one of the most important pieces of Marshall University’s men’s rugby team.

A Dublin, Ohio native and current junior at Marshall, Harter has been president of the rugby team since the spring semester.

His leadership has kept his teammates in a constant rugby rhythm; informing the other players of when and where team meetings are, practices, special events with alumni and even going as far as teaching the other players the game of rugby.

Harter said getting fully accustomed to his role took things some people fail to combine, such as studying the game and working outside of scheduled timeframes.

“Since my senior year at Dublin Scioto High School where I played hockey and was elected a captain by my teammates in football, I was never the greatest player in the world,” Harter said. “But I was always the one putting in work outside of practice.  I always tried to lead by what I did, not necessarily by what I said.  Now, I was never the guy to pump anyone up, but I’ve always been the person you would want to look to if you had a question.”

Before arriving at Marshall, Harter had a head start on the game of rugby. In an area where rugby is far from the most popular sport, both his willingness to continue to play and prior knowledge earned him significant time on the field in his first year.

“Before I came here, I played with a local club team with some of my friends in Ohio,” Harter said.  “As for Marshall rugby, I found the team through Rec Fest and started going to practices. Again, I wasn’t one of those guys who stood out, but I knew what I was doing so I got to play without learning on the sideline. That was important, especially now that we have a team where rebuilding is our main focus so we can make a push for the playoffs next fall.”

Harter plays the number eight position out of the 15 on the pitch; a role on the team that demands the agility of a back and the strength of a forward.

Harter’s wisdom is especially helpful on the field where he is at the center of everything.

“Now that I’m in my junior year, it’s really on me to lead these guys in this rebuilding year,” Harter said.

So far, Harter’s focus has trickled down to first and second year players, most of who only missed a few practices throughout the season and continue to grow as players.

“Jake has been a great leader,” first year wing/flanker Dakota Perry said.  “He’s taught me all that I know about rugby.  As I’m playing, it’s evident from my first day to today.  He’s helped me to the point where when I catch the ball. I know how to take a hit or when I want to pass the ball. He’s taught me how to break a tackle so I can do so.”

“Jake’s a great teammate,” first year fly-half Ben Baker said.  “He knows how to demonstrate almost anything and he has leadership.  Whenever we’re having a problem on the pitch, he knows what it is, which is really important since he’s number eight.  He also helps me with my passing, and we honestly rely on him for most of our power in scrums.”

The scrummage or scrum, a method of restarting a play in rugby, packs the forwards of both teams together with the players’ heads down and forces both teams to push for possession of the ball.   The number eight position helps to push the scrum and needs to be one of the first to detach in order to tackle an opposing player.

Harter not only oversees all aspects of the game, he also holds the team together at the same time.

“Jake always keeps us updated through group texts,” Baker said.  “He makes sure that all of us are at the rugby house whenever a game is over. It’s not just for his sake but for the sake of the team as well.”

“We have rookie meetings and veteran meetings,” Perry said.  “He let’s us know when we’re practicing, how we’re practicing and where.  He’s always making sure that we’re okay in terms of health before and after practice and even throughout the day.  He keeps us all accountable on and off the field.”

Harter and the Herd plan to stay active in various ways despite missing the playoffs this fall.

“There are big goals and little goals,” Harter said.  “As far as the spring is concerned, I want everyone to stay involved. In the past, we’ve had a problem with people going their separate ways after the season ends.  That’s not the best way to go about building camaraderie. As far as little goals are concerned, we’ll be doing service projects for the community in the winter and team workouts.”

Harter’s overall impact when the ball is in his hands needed only a few words of description.

“Just come out here and watch him take a hit from a guy two or three times his size,” Perry said. “It’s incredible.”

Scott Bolger can be contacted at [email protected]