My Fijian calling: rugby

This post is written by Garrett Russell.

I think I might have found my Fijian calling: Rugby.

Gare working the rugby ball
Gare working the rugby ball

Nakavika is a village that has earned the reputation of being a Namosi Highlands rugby powerhouse. With one player currently on the Fiji national team, the blood for the sport runs deep within everyone. Every evening before dinner the men get together, young and old, to play a large game of touch.

In my 24 years, I have yet to learn or play rugby and have little knowledge of the game. My first game of touch was not to pretty. Actually, it was horrible. I have played a lot of soccer, so the running part wasn't a problem. It was the constant reverse passes and incredibly fast opponents. All the men are excellent athletes and put my lazy American butt to shame.

Fijian hospitality and kindness carries through the players on the field. Everyone came over to help me improve my game and encouraged me to keep trying. At the end I felt like I was running in circles and was mildly discouraged but very proud of the bond I created with the village through one of my passions: sports.

The Namosi Highlands, with fourteen villages, is quite remote, and I was not surprised to hear that with such an extensive rugby presence, there is still a lack of professional care for the players. They are forced to play on hurt ankles, with dislocated shoulders and severe cuts.

As the village became more accustomed to why we are here, we began to learn that more people, aside from the youth, wanted to learn something from us. Our contact in the village, Abel, has become a good friend of ours. Through him we found that many of the rugby players have little knowledge of first aid. They do not know what to do if someone is hurt on as well as off the field. Using Abel as our liaison, word spread that we might be able to help the team.

BOOM - an opportunity presented itself.

Some of the boys enjoying their new dental tools
Some of the boys enjoying their new dental tools

Now, I don't have a degree in sports medicine, but I do have a lot experience in the area. Having played soccer, skied, and been active all my life, sports have become my venue - something I can handle. I'm always weary about overstepping my boundaries, but in this case, this rugby-obsessed village knows little to nothing about modern first aid and injuries; I know I can help.

Knowledge of sports medicine is a great way to improve the quality of the teams performance as well as keep these men in working shape for the farm in order to provide for their families.

During our first meeting we were told that the village knew next to nothing about first aid. Lindsay and I gave an overview of health and stressed the importance of keeping the body physically fit to maintain health in the long term sense. My mind is now running a mile a minute.

There are so many things that I can do for the team. I can teach them how to wrap ankles, treat wounds, and make slings. I can help them fundraise for supplies like band aids and sports tape. What I am most excited about is that they came to Lindsay and I to ask for help. Their excitement to learn will allow for the knowledge to stay and not be lost after we leave. Something sustainable could possible come together. We just need to cross our fingers and see how things pan out.