LOCAL COMMUNITY PROFILE: PLANO RUGBY CLUB
“No one is getting paid for any of this, but everyone is very passionate about all of it,” Plano Rugby Club Board Member, Coach, and Mentor Mike King described as he sat down in his office to discuss the identity of PRC.
Based in the titular city, PRC is a youth-oriented program looking to introduce and grow the sport across several youth age groups. It began in 2000 with two men, Frank Waller and Nick Marketos.
A meeting with a geology professor at Southern Methodist University ignited a passion in young Waller. He quickly joined the school’s club team as a result and played far beyond his college years.
It would be years later when the founders met. Waller was driving his pickup down the road and spotted a group of kids playing the game he enjoyed on a grassy field. Marketos oversaw the fun as both coach and instructor.
“I saw a guy over there with a bunch of rugby players. I did a U-turn, went over there, got out of my truck, said “hey man how you doing’?’ I started talking to Nick. I said, ‘You need some help?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I could use some help’.”
Donning blue jeans and a t-shirt, Frank Waller became Coach Frank on the spot. Alongside the late Marketos, the two men shortly opened what would eventually become one of North Texas’ top rugby programs.
Plano Rugby began solely consisting of high school students. By the end of the year, 20 participants turned into 40. After a couple more years Waller and Marketos, excited over the growth of the game and the club’s participating athletes, added programs for younger kids.
“We didn’t want [kids] to have to wait until high school. My son started playing when he was five or six years old, which was unheard of back then,” – Waller said.
Today, more than 48 colleges and universities have varsity rugby teams and that number is growing.
The club received national and international recognition. Teams from as far as England and Wales visited Plano for a match. The PRC Pumas would travel across the country for games, but the majority of opponents liked to visit North Texas because of the warmer climate.
Graduates of the PRC have taken lessons learned from the game. Some improved their attention to detail leading to a job in the medical field, some took the discipline leaned and applied it in training for the armed forces, and others have come back to the game they loved.
Mary Waller, daughter of Frank Waller, is currently in her sixth season coaching the girls high school program. The team has become a squad of excellence, competing in six State Championships and winning four (2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016) in the last 11 years.
Along with the accomplishments, Coach Mary would like to see more girls join the club. She finds some parents are intimidated by rugby’s apparent aggressive structure.
“That’s been my hardest challenge,” Coach Mary said.
Being that rugby features 7-15 players per side on the pitch at a time, teamwork is key to success. Coach Mary has seen the her young players produce cooperative skills at a young age. She has also seen the exponential expansion the sport has taken over Texas .
“When my dad [and Marketos] first started the program, [rugby] was unheard of, especially at the girls level. Now it just keeps expanding. Even the amount of teams in the girls league in high school and in college… it’s just grown in the last five years,” Coach Mary explained.
PRC values introducing the game to the community just as much as they seek grow individuals. King, who has been involved with the club for six years, says that mission is the “driving force behind” the club.
Coach Mary said it perfectly.
“Rugby is a small community and everyone builds each other up.”
The Dallas Jackals extend their deepest condolences to the Plano Rugby Club and the Markets family following the recent loss of Mike Marketos, son of founder Nick Marketos.
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