The Kansas City Rugby Football Club began 50 years ago by word-of-mouth.
“We just had some guys that knew guys that knew guys,” said club co-founder Roland Kolman of assembling Kansas City’s first rugby team in 1964 with the late Gerard “Gerry” Seymour.
Those were the days before one Facebook or Twitter post could reach hundreds of people in a matter of one click.
This weekend former players and current players will reunite thanks to social media.
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Rich Hartke, current club president and a player in the 1980s, said he used a combination of LinkedIn and Google to find former players to invite to the club’s 50th anniversary and reunion in Kansas City.
The weekend will commemorate 50 years of “athletic excellence and recognition for greater Kansas City in both domestic and international competition.” Events include a reunion dinner on Saturday night at the Madrid Theatre for club members and a “modified” rugby game at Gillham Park at noon Saturday that is open to the public.
“The game is going to be simply an opportunity for us to laugh at each other, see how poorly we’ve fared over the many decades,” Hartke said. “It’s not at all representative of the current state of the sport. It’s going to be a leisurely game played by, sometimes, very ancient athletes.”
Seymour, who died in 2002, worked as an officer at the British Consulate in Kansas City. He helped bring rugby to the city when he created the club with Kolman, 76, who was captain of the rugby team at Dartmouth. Kolman moved to Kansas City with his wife after serving in the army and was working at Hallmark when the club was formed.
“I think Gerry ran an ad or something. Somehow he got a hold of me and between the two of us we had enough experience to get going,” Kolman said.
Seymour played the administrative role in creating the club while Kolman worked on putting the team together, he said. Kolman remembers Seymour as “a smooth talker and a good organizer.”
“He was a good guy,” Kolman said. “He was a very good guy.”
Kolman, who now lives in Ohio, will serve as one of the featured speakers this weekend. He said he is excited to see how far the team has come in 50 years.
Hartke expects members from each club since 1964 to attend the event.
“We truly are very unique in the world of sport,” Hartke said. “It is a sport that if you experience it, you find difficult to enjoy other sports as well.”