I am the first to admit that my knowledge on rugby is close to nil, until being invited one day to observe a lesson on this sport at Keaau Middle School by Fili Lauano.
Lauano was an invited guests of the physical education department to give six to eighth graders an introductory lesson on this growing sport.
“I’m from Western Samoa and in my country Rugby is the national sport and we all learn to play it at a very young age,” Lauano said.
Lauano was born in Utah and while living there his father attend Bingham Young University in Provo.
“Following my Dad’s graduation we all moved back to Western Samoa,” Lauano said. “I was two years old when we moved.”
Later his mother sent the 17 year old back to Oahu where he graduated from Kahuku High School.
“I played rugby for a club on Oahu called the Honolulu Chiefs,” he said. “Shortly after moving to the Big Island I played for the Hilo Reign Rugby Club.”
Lauano was raised most of his life playing rugby and his hero became a former Samoan rugby player by the name of Brian Lima.
“Everybody in Samoa loves rugby and everyone knows Brian Lima as he also has the nickname of the Chiropractor,” Lauano said. “He got the nickname because when he hits someone while playing defense that person will then need to see a chiropractor to realign his bones.”
Despite the fierce reputation of the sport Lauano would argue that rugby has fewer injuries than football.
“Rugby referees are more concerned with controlling the sport and we do get fewer injuries than American football,” Lauano said.
Lauano just recently got out of the Navy.
“My job in the Navy was a medic attached to ground forces of the Marines since the USMC pulls their medics from the Navy,” he said. “No matter where I was stationed I found the time to play.”
The 29 year old Lauano has a son that plays rugby for the Puna Chiefs, as all the members from that team attend the Hawaiian immersion school called Ke Kula O Nawahi’opu’u in Keaau according to Lauano.
“Most of our players who form the Puna Chiefs rugby club are Hawaiian speaking,” he said.
To stay in Rugby fitness shape Lauano works out three times a week, doing lots of cardiovascular training, including running.
“Since my exercise discipline from the military stuck with me, I normally run a lot,” he said. “I don’t really pay attention to the miles that much, but usually just go out for time.”
Instead of weight training Lauano will opt to do pushups, sit ups, pull ups and body squats four times per week.
“I’ll do resistance training as well because it strengthens my core and to me that is important,” he said.
“For diet I will go with meats to build muscle, plenty of fruits for both hydration and essential minerals for the body as well as a lot of vegetables,” he said. “I also drink a gallon of water every day.”
Lauano believes that rugby is good for children as it keeps them active in a day and age where kids have been controlled by video and computer games, along with television.
“The media has taken control of our children,” he said. “Not only have their sedentary habits been affected but also the foods they eat are unhealthy as I see many obese kids which is sad.”
Lauano points out that Rugby is an Olympic sport that is growing throughout the world.
“It’s best to teach the basics of Rugby while they are still young,” he said. “When they grow up they can develop their skills provided they stick with the sport.”
Teaching rugby to youngsters is what Lauano loves to do.
“I love the game and have a passion for it,” Lauano said. “The competitive aspect of the sport develops characteristics among players such as persistence and teamwork.”
Lauano believes that Rugby teaches discipline and that it creates leaders, both on and off the field.
“I love the game and I have a strong passion for it, so I try to share this passion with young people,” he said.
“In Samoa everyone plays Rugby and it is a national sport, just like baseball and basketball is here in the United States,” Luano said. “In Samoa kids are exposed to sports heroes in rugby and there are many that we look up to as all we know is rugby.
As an athlete Luano believes that hydration and nutrition are the key components.
“Health is very important in order to participate in any sport,” he said. “Living in Hawaii makes it a challenge as the local foods here are very enticing. I try to stick to eating vegetables and fruits everyday along with hydration, but never any electrolyte replacement drinks as I stick to just water.”
Standing at 6-2 and weighing in at 225 pounds Lauano is an imposing figure, but once you get to know him you realize what a kind and gentle person he is off the playing field.
“I actually played semi pro football for awhile, but I’ve always come back to the sport that I love the best,” Lauano said.
And someday should you happen to see a tall slim stranger jogging slowly around Bayfront Park remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”