Writer \/\/ Janelle Morrison Photography \/\/ Theresa Skutt If you haven\u2019t been following the Zionsville Rugby team, you\u2019ve been missing an incredible season. The fuel behind the team comes from years of experienced players and coaches, as well as up-and-coming talented athletes from Zionsville and abroad. I had the immeasurable pleasure of meeting new residents to Zionsville Jason and Jennifer (Jen) Speedy and their three boys, Jack, Luke and Sean, who moved to town from Edwardsville, Illinois, less than a year ago. I was also introduced to an incredible young man, Santiago (Santi) Rojas, an exchange student from Valladolid, Spain, who has become an \u201cadopted\u201d member of their family and a valued member of the Zionsville Rugby team. The Speedy Family and Santiago (Santi) Rojas Many may not realize that the Zionsville Rugby Club was established in 2003, has won conferences and championships in previous years and has had 35 of its players go on to play college rugby. I sat down with the Speedys and Rojas to learn more about the exchange program, as well as our town\u2019s rugby team. While rugby is traditionally not as popular as other sports in the U.S., it is a sport with a long and rich history built upon deeply rooted traditions and a culture of respect. Jen Speedy shared how their hosting Rojas all began, shortly before moving into their newly built home here in Zionsville. She had joined a local community social media page so that she could network, engage and get to know her new community better. She read a post, and with a mother\u2019s heart she responded to it. \u201cThere was a post about an exchange student that needed to be rehomed,\u201d Jen said. \u201cSchool had already started, and Santi was living with Julie Siegal, a coordinator at ETC . She was moving outside of the school district and had asked if anyone was interested in hosting an exchange student. I don\u2019t know why, but I immediately thought, \u2018Sure. We\u2019re building this house and have an extra bedroom, and we already have three boys who are in different athletic programs.\u2019 It just sounded like a good fit, and I just wanted to offer him a good \u2018host\u2019 home.\u201d Jen\u2019s husband, Jason, needed a little more time to process the idea, and with good reason. His family is new to town, in the process of moving into a new home and juggling the schedules of their three active boys. What\u2019s to consider, right? \u201cTo be honest, when it was first discussed, I thought that it sounded like a cool idea, but did we really want to do this when we had a lot going on,\u201d Jason said. \u201cBut after we met Santi at Bub\u2019s Burgers and then took him on fall break down to Brown County with us, I knew that this was going to be a good fit.\u201d Jen added, \u201cDuring that short trip , we got to know each other, and he immediately bonded with the little ones. It was like he\u2019s always been around. He is very kind and well-mannered.\u201d The Speedys explained that Rojas had been playing rugby back in Spain and wanted to play while he attended school as a junior at ZCHS. They learned about the club team from Zionsville Rugby Club head coach and co-founder Larry Shiller and signed him up. \u201cI know that rugby is not that popular in the United States, but I wanted to play here,\u201d Rojas said. \u201cWe started practicing in December, and I started making friends. It\u2019s been really nice. Zionsville is amazing. The people are really nice, and the school is awesome. There are so many options and opportunities here.\u201d Rojas admitted that he is not as big a fan of our Hoosier weather. \u201cCompared to how nice everything else is, it is not a big deal,\u201d he decided. Throughout his time here, Rojas has been advocating for the club and the sport to help grow the team and general knowledge about the sport. \u201cI play scrum-half or number 9 position,\u201d Rojas explained. \u201cYour number is based on your position . I\u2019m the smallest and fastest guy on the team because I have to follow with the ball, behind everybody, running side to side, nonstop.\u201d Having attended the games, Jen added, \u201cSanti is like a firecracker out there. It is nonstop sprinting.\u201d Zionsville Rugby Club Similar to American football, each team has to score a \u201ctry,\u201d which is worth 5 points. \u201cA try is the equivalent to a touchdown,\u201d Jason explained. \u201cYou get to kick for the extra points, like football,\u201d Rojas added. \u201cI\u2019m also a kicker.\u201d When we sat down for this interview, Rojas and his teammates had just obliterated the Carmel team with an impressive 31-0 finish. While the team was exhilarated by their win over their opponent, Rojas explained that one of the most important traditions of rugby, worldwide, is not only the respect that is shown before and during the game but the shared meal with the opposing team. After every game, the teams and coaches sit down and break bread with one another. \u201cRespect is a big part of it ,\u201d Larry Shiller said. \u201cYou respect the referee, the opponents and your teammates.\u201d Coach Larry Shiller and Santiago Rojas When asked what he thinks Rojas has brought to the club\u2019s team this year, Shiller said, \u201cHe brings his knowledge of the game, and his technique is such that he can play with anyone. He knows what to do and how to do it well. The guys learn from him, and he\u2019s a great addition to the team. Santi is spirited and brings some of that passion to the game, and that\u2019s infectious to the other guys.\u201d I asked Rojas what he has learned from not only his teammates and coaches but from living with his host family all these months. \u201cThere are literally so many things,\u201d he expressed. \u201cOne of the main reasons I came here was to learn English. Before I came here, I barely spoke English. When I go back to Spain and take my English classes, it will be super easy, and my friends will be like, \u2018Wow.\u2019\u201d Rojas has enjoyed his educational and living experiences well enough that he is seriously contemplating coming back to the States for college, where he wants to study economics. The Speedys and Shiller are currently researching rugby scholarships on Rojas\u2019 behalf. \u201cI\u2019ve made really good friends here, and all my friends are already planning their senior spring break to come to Spain and visit me,\u201d Rojas said. \u201cI love economics and know that\u2019s what I want to do. I already told my parents that I want to come back .\u201d Jen concluded, \u201cOur family is already planning a trip to Spain to visit Santi. I don\u2019t know if every host family connects as closely with their child as we have, but we\u2019ve all bonded really strongly.\u201d To learn more about the Zionsville Rugby Club, follow them on Facebook or on Twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org.