LAFAYETTE, Colo. – The 2015-16 season ended without a trip to the D1A Rugby Playoffs for the Colorado State University rugby team. Couple the below par season a year ago with the graduation of All-Conference performers Lance Eberhard, Evan Geist and Carmine Hernandez, as well as Olympian Ben Pinkelman,and the expectations outside of the Rams locker weren’t high coming into this year’s campaign.

The reality of the situation was that Colorado State hadn’t been performing below its expectations because of the level of talent on the field, but because the team’s commitment to a healthy culture and hard work went astray. Then, in June, the team received some very difficult news. Long time Rams coach Rod Hartley informed the majority of his team that he was battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or a disease more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“A lot of us were shocked and immediately pained by the information, but there were some guys that didn’t know what ALS was,” said Colorado State winger Corey Parker. “We all understood the gravity of the situation, though, and have made it clear to Rod that we would do whatever we could to help.”

One way the players knew they could lift the spirits of their coach that had volunteered so much time to the program was to improve their performance on the pitch. So, a large contingent of Rams made a commitment to do everything they could over the summer to better themselves ahead of the West Conference’s fall season.

“A strong core group of the team really focused and worked on both our strength and conditioning, as well as our basics,” explained Parker.

And who was there to encourage the student-athletes and monitor their progress? Coach Hartley.

“The strength portion was really on the individuals, but Rod worked with all of us on the conditioning and mental toughness,” Parker added. “I wouldn’t say we were inspired because of his diagnosis, but we became more driven and focused to put all our effort into it every day.”

The hard work put in during the dog days of summer made for some impressive fall results. The Rams haven’t dropped a game this season, and their unblemished mark includes wins against D1A Rugby’s 12th-ranked Air Force and No. 13 Utah. Although a unintentional use of an ineligible player during Colorado State’s victory over rival University of Colorado docked the team six points from the West’s standings table, its body of work and current ranking of No. 10 puts the Rams in good position for a place in D1A Playoffs’ 12-team field.

“We are working to finish this season undefeated and plan to work even harder to prepare for the Playoffs should we get the opportunity to represent Colorado State University then,” Parker said of the team’s expectations.

Colorado State isn’t sure if it will finish the season as West Champions, or where they will fit in the D1A Playoff picture come April, but the entire team is certain that the success they are having on the pitch is due, in large part, to Coach Hartley’s guidance and unspoken inspiration.

“His leadership and ability to show up everyday after his diagnosis, both in the offseason and regular season, has inspired the players,” Parker said. “He has demanded our highest caliber of play, and won’t give up or let us accept anything less. It’s his strength and respect, along with the fact that the moment we step on the pitch we become part of his family, that creates such a strong group.”

The Colorado State University rugby program has setup a GoFundMe account in order to raise money for its beloved coach that is forced to deal with the financial burden of battling ALS. You can visit the Rams GoFundMe account for Coach Hartley here:

By Rachel Holzhaeuser

Through inclusive policies, practice, and training, Campus Recreation strives to be a place on campus where everyone feels safe and comfortable to be the Rec’ing Ram that they are.  The Inclusivity Committee is volunteer-based and composed of ten professional staff members and two student staff members from Campus Recreation. The committee has been meeting since October of 2015 and has since then been striving toward providing ongoing, intentional oversight of departmental efforts of creating an inclusive recreation experience.

The Inclusivity Committee is a result of a recommendation from the GLBTQ Audit conducted in May 2013, which evaluated how well Campus Recreation was doing in terms of being safe and welcoming for the GLBTQ community on campus. Since its implementation, the Inclusivity Committee has largely been focused on prioritizing projects, reviewing the recent Adaptive Recreation Audit, and updating inclusion-related materials on the website as well as staff training materials.

Associate Director of Administration, Erin Patchett, is the chair of the committee and has been working for Campus Recreation at CSU since August of 2010. In regards to inclusive spaces at the Rec Center, Gender Inclusive Restrooms and Changing Rooms were already in place when Erin began her work at CSU.

“Over the past six years, some of the major changes I’ve seen have been the formalization of an Asserted Gender Identity Policy, an expansion of type and quantity of adaptive fitness equipment… the creation of the Inclusivity Committee, and more intentional and accessible communication about what policies, facilities, and resources we have in place to create a welcoming and safe environment for the diverse users of our services,” Erin said of the changes since she began working for Campus Recreation.

Staff trainings are crucial in making sure we can fulfill our goals and that each staff member has the knowledge and understanding of policies and how to educate fellow staff and patrons in order to create the best atmosphere for everyone.

With that, the Inclusivity Committee has focused largely on improving the education of both professional and student staff through inclusivity trainings.

One new project aimed to educating staff is the “Inclusion Infusion” project. In hopes of furthering education and social responsibility, Inclusion Infusion features posters in the student staff breakroom that address different topics such as allyship, white privilege, cultural appropriation, and more.

All of our program and support areas are continuously working to create an educated and welcoming environment so that all Campus Recreation participants feel as though the Rec Center is a place they can achieve their goals and be their authentic self.

In order to continue improving the environment we create, we invite you to share your opinions and feedback. If you identify as having a disability, please take this 5-minute survey to help guide our adaptive recreation efforts. Survey-takers can opt-in to be entered into a giveaway drawing for an item from the CSU Bookstore. If you need an alternative form the survey or would like to provide feedback beyond the survey, please contact Campus Recreation Inclusivity Committee Chair, Erin Patchett, at Erin.Patchett@ColoState.Edu.

Survey link: