Last month, two Team Buckley members proved that blood, sweat and tears are a way of life during an Air Force rugby competition.
2nd Lt. James MacAndrew, 2nd Space Warning Squadron mission crew commander, and Senior Airman Theodore Szarzynski, 233rd Space Group systems administrator, both played for the Air Force Aces rugby team during the Las Vegas Invitational rugby tournament.
The Air Force sent two teams to the competition; the Air Force Aces and the Elites.
Szarzynski started playing at Eastern Connecticut State University. They day he quit playing soccer the rugby coach approached him and offered him a position on the team. He told him to bring his cleats and get a mouth guard and he could be a part of the team. After learning the sport, he ended up loving it and becoming a talented player.
"It's so much different than any other sport," Szarzynski said. "There's so much more to it. You move around so much and you need to be able to cover all aspects of the game at all times. It took years to become even remotely good."
MacAndrew played football growing up and has always been into sports. When he was at the U.S. Air Force Academy he was on the football team for two years and the track team for four, which then lead him to rugby.
"I'm from Texas, so I was born and bred to play football," MacAndrew said.
MacAndrew first tried rugby at the Academy, but considers himself to still be learning the game.
"It's a lot of skill and a lot of strategy," he said. "You're constantly learning and constantly running around. You have to know everyone's position and yours and how that affects the game."
Both rugby players were opened up to the idea of the Air Force team by coworkers and fellow Team Buckley members.
Szarsynski also plays for the Denver Harlequins, a local rugby team. A member of one of his rival teams is a guardsman in Colorado and suggested that he try out for the Air Force team.
After making the team, both Airmen felt excited and proud, they said. The Air Force team is made up of roughly 70 members who will participate in games and competitions based on whoever is available.
Meeting up in Las Vegas, Nevada, MacAndrew and Szarsynski only had one week with the other players to practice and unite as a team.
"Bringing everyone together just for a week is really tough," MacAndrew said. "It's also really neat because everyone can bring different aspects to the game from their experiences."
"You have to be very flexible and adapt to the coaches strategy," he added. "It's not easy."
MacAndrew and Szarsynski both played on one of the two Air Force teams at the tournament. The Airmen agreed that the tournament went well for both teams. The Aces made it to the quarterfinals and the other Air Force team made it to the semifinals. Combined, the teams finished with a 5-5 record.
"From where we started day one, to how we played in the tournament, was night and day," Szarzynski said. "Being able to play competitively against the other teams was very rewarding."
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