While most of campus is quiet and sleepy in the early morning hours, this week, bright, colorful Christmas lights and the sound of '80s and '90s hits can be heard outside of Frist Campus Center at all hours of the day. Come a bit closer, and you’ll find one of the many Princeton men’s rugby players pedaling away on a stationary bike, pushing onward in a tradition that has now spanned 10 years.
Just like the past nine fall semesters, the arrival of falling leaves and cold weather represents the beginnings of one of the greatest modern traditions Princeton rugby has to offer. While the name has changed with each passing year — this year the event is named the “Dash to Dublin” — the large decorated tent protecting the stationary bicycle and its rider has become a mainstay on the campus for a week each year. Since 2007, the bike event has served as one of the biggest on-campus fundraisers for the team. Each year, hundreds of people pass by the tent and look on with curiosity and interest. Some stay a while, to learn more about the team or to spend a few minutes enjoying the music and singing or dancing along. Regardless of their reasons, many leave having donated even a few dollars to the large 10-gallon jug in front of the biker. And all of them have become a part of the network of people that have helped the team in their fundraising efforts.
“The central purpose of this fundraiser is to ensure that every member of the team has the opportunity to attend tour, regardless of the ability to pay,” noted senior captain Mark Goldstein. “The proceeds help sponsor several players who otherwise would not be able to come on the incredible experience.”
The tour is another one of the many traditions that Princeton rugby has in its season. For one week in the spring, the team embarks on a week-long trip to a country with deep history in the sport of rugby. There, the players get the opportunity to meet and train with some of the world’s best coaches and players. At the same time, they get to immerse themselves in the deep traditions and culture of the country. For some players, the trip represents their first travel outside the country, and for all players, the tour helps form even deeper team-wide friendships, providing them with memories to last a lifetime.
“Tour is an incredible opportunity to visit a rugby-crazy country,” added Goldstein, “and to get coaching from professionals, which is a unique opportunity for our players, many of whom are new to the sport.”
From Ireland to the Bahamas to South Africa, the team has traveled around the world to learn about rugby from some of the world’s best in the sport. This season, the rugby team will be returning to Ireland, one of the favorite locations the team has visited. And each year, the team continues to bike until they have “reached” the destination that they will be traveling. Depending on the location, this takes between 7-9 days of continuous biking. Whether it is a bright and sunny Wednesday afternoon or a cold 30-degree Saturday morning, there is always a player on top of the bike, making sure the pedals continue to move until it is another player’s turn for their time atop the bike.
“What I like most about the event is how it brings the team together," noted senior captain William Haynes. “Whenever I walk by the bike, I can’t help but stop to talk to whoever is on there and when I’m on there, all the guys stop and talk to me."
But it isn’t just current players that stop and visit the bike. Coaches and rugby alumni can all be found by the bike station sometime throughout the week, connecting with the present players, reminiscing on their time on the bike, and contributing to the cause. Last season, head coach Richard Lopacki could even be found taking shifts of his own on the bike. Beyond the rugby community, students, professors, Princeton faculty, and even tourists have swung by the stand to learn more about the Dash to Dublin and to give generous donations.
“When we complete this year’s Dash, over the 10 years we will have biked over 32,000 miles over something like 70 straight days!” Lopacki said. He credited the creators of the event, David Clark '10 and Kane Hochster '08: “They should be proud the idea is still going strong, and it is still awesome."
The event started on Friday afternoon, so there is a good chance that the team will be there for at least another few days. If you haven’t seen it already, swing by to see the event for yourself; listen along to some of the music, or just stop and say hello to whoever is on the bike. Get a chance to learn more about the history of this event and see for yourself how the Dash to Dublin, like its nine predecessors, has become a staple of the Princeton men’s rugby tradition.