All about the Lakeland Lancers team and how the qualities, characteristics, and values that make up this local rugby team are evident on and off the field.
Rugby is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, and the seven-player version of the game is now a part of the Olympics. There are around 500-1,000 teams across the nation, with about 60 in Florida alone. Lakeland is home to its own team, the Lakeland Lancers, which was established a few years ago. The Lakeland Lancers are the top union rugby team in Lakeland and are associated with the Florida Rugby Union. The team plays year-round, both for fun and as a competition team, traveling all over Florida to compete. in tournaments.
Jordan “JD” Arbuckle first started playing rugby while in high school. After moving to Lakeland to attend Florida Southern College, he discovered the Lakeland Lancers rugby team and began to play again. Since graduating from FSC, Arbuckle is now a digital consultant working out of Catapult and has been president of the Lakeland Lancers for the past three years.
When Arbuckle first joined the team, there were only four players, so playing games was tough since it is a seven-player game. During the first year, the four-person team had to bring on additional players to compete, and the team began to grow from there. Since then, the team has gained more than 20 new players, with recruiting going on throughout the year. During the fall, the Lakeland Lancers play against teams in Florida; then in the spring, they compete in games scheduled through the Florida Rugby Union. As of right now, the team plays only in Florida, but once they reach a certain skill level, the team will be able to compete in different states.
The team as a whole is made up of different groups, some include the Old Boys, the standard team, and a new youth team coming next summer. The Old Boys are players 35 years old and up who enjoy the sport and want to continue playing for fun, while the standard team competes in the tournaments. The youth team is a new program that will be in collaboration with Excel Church, and Arbuckle will be starting clinics with them later this fall.
The Lancers are open to adding players from all ages and backgrounds and take the time to teach you how to play, so no prior rugby playing experience is necessary. Multiple players shared that joining the team helped them achieve their goal of playing the sport and that playing has been extremely valuable and gratifying.
“The Lakeland Lancers allowed me to fulfill a desire I had to play rugby since I was introduced to the sport back in 1991 while stationed in England,” says player Dan Francoeur.
“They’ve helped me in my experience to get better at a sport I had never played. They’ve helped me get in better shape physically and boosted my morale,” says fellow player Triston Maxwell. Furthermore, many players have said that the team is like a second family that is there for them, and playing helps improve both their mental and physical wellness.
“For me, finding the Lakeland Lancers wasn’t just finding a hobby, but finding another family, a transformative routine of mental and physical wellness and passion that I can’t imagine giving up,” Stetson Glass shares.
In addition to playing games throughout the year, the Lakeland Lancers are also very involved in the community. The rugby team is sponsored by various local businesses, including Musick Roofing, TJ’s Tubs, and Swan Brewing. Through these sponsorships and the team’s own efforts, they are present at events in downtown Lakeland and Polk County. The team attends First Friday events and was a part of last year’s Christmas parade. Additionally, the Lakeland Lancers volunteered at the Polk County Special Olympics last year and plan to volunteer again this year.
The Lakeland Lancers are growing quickly, and the team is made up of professionals from a diverse number of industries. Many players have said that joining the team was a great decision and that the qualities, characteristics, and values that are developed while playing rugby are also applicable to other areas of their lives.
“Each and every person on that team, whether they realize it or not, is developing skills that they will be able to leverage for the rest of their life,” says player Steve Crowell. The team’s core values include courage, responsibility, respect, and health.
According to Arbuckle, the team’s culture is positive, inclusive, and friendly. Everyone has a unique part when it comes to playing the game.
The Lakeland Lancers are passionate about gaining new players and being a part of the community. “Though the sport is phenomenal, the most amazing part is the community. No group has been so accepting or welcoming,” shares player Brooke Benham. As a whole, the team has not only developed numerous skills, but team members have also been able to improve both their mental and physical health.
The team’s board of officers also provides players with the chance to develop leadership skills. These values have helped bring players from the community together to form a brotherhood that has grown both as a team and as individuals.