You know the name BA Baracus or so you think. You might be thinking of the Mr-T’s character on the 80s show the A-Team, but we are taking about the Northern California Rugby Football Union (NorCal) Division II side, Bay Area Baracus Rugby Football Club. Baracus has established themselves as one of the DII teams in NorCal amidst a very crowed rugby landscape in the Bay Area (which includes Olympic Club, SFGG, Marin, Berkeley, Olde Gaels, EPA Razorbacks, San Jose, SF Fog, South Valley, Silicon Valley, Life West, etc). We can tell you from past personal experience back in the day that Baracus was a team you hated to play but loved to have a beer with afterwards. Baracus always played hard nose, scrappy and physical rugby and whether part of their game plan or not, would cause so much disruption to opponent’s game plans and drive you nuts. On the same had after battling it out with these boys for 80 minutes, they truly understood all the aspects of the game (including the brotherhood) and played great hosts every time.
Baracus is one of those sides that’s in the mix each and every year in NorCal’s DII and so for our on-going pre-season coverage we wanted to make sure that these guys are given some of the spotlight. We wanted you all to get to know these guys and also how as one of the smaller clubs in the Bay Area they continue to make an impact.
The club connected us with John Kuhns who has been a BA Baracus Player since 2008. Below is our conversation.
The Rugby Republic (RR): People want to know, how did you guys come up with the club’s name?
John Kuhns (JK): In 2001 several players and friends who had graduated from Amherst College in Mass. put a squad together to compete in NorCal. They wanted to pick a name that stood out and was a bit humorous, thinking this would just be a one off season and wouldn’t last for another 15 years. The name was part acronym, the first two initials stood for “Bay Area” as many of the original members were living in various cities here. Apparently at the table that night, as soon as someone said “B.A” immediately people associated Mr. T, whose character from the A-Team was “B.A. Baracus”. Henceforth we were the Bay Area Baracus RFC. The name today serves as a reminder that while we need to approach out training and our opponents with urgency and respect, ultimately we play rugby to be good team mates and to have fun - Very little can be accomplished if that isn’t taken care of first.
RR: How important is it to your club to play quality rugby and also maintain the social aspects of rugby?
JK: It is very important, but rugby today is more dynamic and competitive than it’s ever been, so rugby is the primary focus. There’s no room in D2 for teams who think of rugby as a byproduct of the social element. When people use the term “social” next to rugby, that implies a bunch of guys with beers in their hands, and that’s not the picture we want to paint. To us, social means that we do what we love while deepening relationships with our community. We do this by having local fundraisers, supporting local youth organizations dedicated to the sport. We’ve provided the entire coaching staff for the San Francisco Alzheimer’s Associations Blondes vs. Brunettes football league, we offer clinics to local youth teams, colleges and universities, and we support the nationally ranked women’s rugby organizations in the Bay Area. It also means that we enjoy hanging out with each other, becoming close mates and giving support to one another in the parts of our lives that don’t involve rugby. And yeah, it can involve cracking a beer or two with your team mates and rivals after a match, but that’s not unique to us.
RR: Does your club have a youth program or a feeder from any of the local colleges? How has your club sustained its numbers?
JK: Not officially, but we do tend to see a good amount of players from Santa Clara, Stanford, USF, and SF State. We are part of Bay Area Youth Rugby, a 501c3 non-profit organization that helps support teams like the Berkeley Rhino’s and the Oakland Warthogs, the latter of which has a former Baracus as Head Coach. We typically sustain our numbers via word of mouth, and making sure new members are enjoying themselves.
RR: Being the bay area with so many rugby clubs is it difficult to stand out, attract players, and complete with players having so many options?
JK: It can be, but’s it’s getting easier as we continue to build the club up. The Bay Area is a magnet to Rugby Players and you have some really great Clubs in Golden Gate and Olympic Club. The rugby community is still small, and a dynamic exists post university where big groups of team mates who’ve graduated tend to all go to the same club. We feel we offer something those clubs do not and we tend to attract a lot of great talent as well, especially from overseas.
RR: What are your goals for this year in NorCal’s DII? Do you feel you can win out and is your goal to reach the CA Cup?
JK: Yes, our goal is to reach very top. Our goal is always to go as far as we possibly can, there can’t really be any other goal, can there?
RR: How much parity do you feel there is currently in NorCal’s DII?
JK: I know that the Division and the Referee’s society are doing the best they can with the resources on hand, and it’s not easy. That said one thing I’d certainly like to see is a return to mandatory 2nd XV matches immediately following the 1st Xv matches. I believe that is critical to development of our sport and of new players and the current state of things doesn’t support that development as well as it could.
RR: Does your club foresee moving up to DI in the next few years? If yes is there a plan, if no what would be the deterrent.
JK: It’s been a discussion for some time now. We feel we’re better positioned now than we were 4 years ago but there’s a lot of work to be done still, I couldn’t define a timeline but it’s top of mind.
RR: Do you guys run a program year round, or really focus on 15s and 7s a social?
JK: For now the focus is on men’s 15s, with our international players who typically travel in the summer, 7’s as of last summer is still quite social. We do have plans to double-down on 7’s this summer due to its increasing popularity. Traditionally it’s been a great source of talent for 15’s.
RR: In a crowded city like San Francisco, with limited park space and a lot of teams, how does that impact training or growth if it has an impact at all?
JK: You’ll notice that many of the D1/PRP teams have some sort of training grounds or facilities for use by the players. Those resources attract great talent, and we don’t have that yet. We’ve been able to secure field for matches and training that are consistent but SF parks and recreation has very limited natural turf fields, which is a necessity for rugby that is increasingly ignored.
RR: Why should people who live in the Bay seek out and or come out to try rugby with your club?
JK: That’s a great question. I think the answer depends on the individual. If you’re someone who wants to play fast, competitive rugby with a bunch of people who will end up being some of your closest lifelong friends, you relish playing around people of diverse backgrounds and nationalities, you relish having a challenge laid at your feet, and you relish the idea of having ownership over the trajectory of your club, then we are for you. If you’re the type of player that would rather spend a Tuesday night having a laugh with your mates and training as a high performance athlete than sitting in front of your laptop, then we are for you. The bottom line is we are out here because we love rugby and we believe it should be fun, part of that means winning matches, but most of all it means relishing every last minute of playing rugby while we’re still young. We love rugby and we want you to love it too, why else would we be out here?
RR: Anything you’d like to add?
Thanks to John and the boys over at BA Baracus RFC. Great group of guys and rugby players. You can learn more about them by checking out their website www.baracusrugby.com and follow them on Facebook at BaracusRugby or @BaracusRugby.