Regimented Regi

0
197

Regi Mendoza is in his second season playing for the Philadelphia Gryphons, who use two South Philly locations as their practice sites.

Action photo provided by Regi Mendoza

Regi Mendoza regards raising his heart rate so highly that he must engage in some form of physical exertion each day. The Dickinson Square West resident has called upon numerous athletic ventures to keep his circulation in a superb state and is enjoying his second season as a member of the Philadelphia Gryphons Rugby Football Club.

“I’m totally engulfed in this world,” the 26-year-old said from Columbus Square Park, 1200 Wharton St., which, along with Vare Recreation Center, 2600 Morris St., serves as a practice space for the constituents of the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union club. “It is really helping me to grow and reinforces what I see as the biggest benefits of joining an athletic group, which are teamwork, humility, and responsibility to self.”

Mendoza joined the International Gay Rugby Association and Board squad thanks to an increasing desire to expand his sports involvement and due to its aim “to foster a diverse environment that welcomes all athletes, regardless of age, race, fitness level or sexual orientation,” per the Gryphons’ website. With the sport having gained even more renown through the rugby sevens version’s initial inclusion in the recently completed Summer Olympics, Mendoza believes it proves captivating because of the intensity and constant call for participants to give their all.

“Being a gay athlete, I feel, as do others when they play, that I have to prove myself a bit more because there’s this notion that gay men can’t be incredibly athletic,” he said. “I like defying that because I’ve always been highly athletic. Rugby makes me even more compelled to be so.”

His immersion included the immediate realization that he could take a hit, a must-have quality for a wing.

“I knew I wasn’t going to break,” Mendoza laughed. “It’s a physical sport, and whether I’m looking to avoid a tackle or tackle someone, everything about the game is great because it asks us to stretch our limits and try our best. At my age, as I become more enthused about exploring who I am, that’s incredibly appealing.”

The opportunity to play for the Gryphons, who use Southwest Philly’s Pepper Middle School at their home pitch, also finds him fraternizing with other South Philadelphians, including coach Timothy O’Connor, who is a Pennsport resident. Having dropped their first game by one try on Saturday, he and his mates will turn their attention to Sept. 24’s trek to face the Washington Renegades and will host Pax River on Oct. 1.

“We’re really excited to watch as the season unfolds and we progress,” Mendoza said. “That chemistry is what a team needs in order to succeed, and I’m going to love to contribute to it.”

THE SOUTH PHILLY native noted that he was “terrible” at sports as a youth. The alumnus of the former Sacred Heart of Jesus School began to alter his stance on his skills first through West Catholic High School and then Gwynedd-Mercy University, with the high hurdles as a particular point of pride.

“I wanted to do more than just running because I thought that was boring,” he recollected. “With the hurdles, there was a sense of danger, and that, strangely perhaps, was a source of curiosity.”

Following his college graduation, Mendoza continued to pursue what he called “nontraditional sports,” enjoying club volleyball, adult gymnastics, and muay thai boxing. No matter its international clout, rugby also registers as a nontraditional pastime in the United States, but revering its appeal is quickly becoming customary for him.

“As I become more knowledgeable of the game, it strikes me as really amazing how inspiring it can be to be a rugby player,” he said. “If you want to get poetic about it, you can see the competition as a barrier to your goals and you can try to tackle your problems and overcome them. If you want to see it as just a sport, too, that’s also fine! We don’t have to read that much into it to enjoy it.”

Along with spreading his enthusiasm for the sport, which he and the Gryphons did last month through a Rugby 101 clinic, Mendoza is enjoying professional happiness as a staff accountant for The Philly POPS, for whom he has worked since November. As the year winds down, he looks forward to celebrating his first anniversary with the entity and pondering how to help the Gryphons to excel in next year’s Colonial Cup, which Philadelphia will host at a to-be-determined site.

“It’s an exciting time in my life,” Mendoza, also excited about his October birthday, said. “I’m thrilled that rugby has helped to build that excitement.” SPR

Visit philadelphiagryphons.org.

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com.

Regi Mendoza is in his second season playing for the Philadelphia Gryphons, who use two South Philly locations as their practice sites.

Portrait photo by Tina Garceau