Skip to content

Rugby Past and Present

Q & A with Student Athlete Claire Tomashek and Alumnus Bobby Rendina, D.C.

To commemorate Palmer Rugby’s 60th anniversary, 6th trimester student Claire Tomashek, a member of the nationally-ranked women’s team, joined Robert “Bobby” Rendina, D.C. (Main, ’84), member of the men’s team from 1978-84, for a Q&A about rugby past and present and the impact it’s had on their lives as a student and chiropractor.

What drew you to chiropractic and rugby?
CLAIRE: My doctor of chiropractic was a Palmer graduate and always had great things to say about Palmer. I played rugby during undergrad (at UW-LaCrosse) so that gave me the extra push to attend Palmer.

BOBBY: I came out to visit my brother, who was enrolled at Palmer, in the early 70s, and it looked like something I would enjoy. I enrolled in the local junior college in 1978 and that fall started playing rugby as the only guy from the junior college. When I enrolled at Palmer there was a nine-month waiting list for the rugby team.

What similarities or differences do you see in rugby, then vs. now?
CLAIRE: We always hear that women’s rugby is the fastest growing sport in the U.S., and as a high-school coach, I see so many opportunities that women rugby players have now, playing on regional or college teams.

BOBBY: It’s been 36 years, and it’s more organized now. We thought it was big because we were always around it, but back then people outside didn’t know much about it. Now we see how much the popularity of rugby has grown not only at Palmer, but also across the country.

How has/did rugby impact you as a student? As a chiropractor?
CLAIRE: Leadership is important in rugby. At Palmer, you have people leaving and joining the team every three months, and there are always people who step up in those leadership roles. Players who are in their 8th or 9th trimester have set great examples of what a leader should look like.

BOBBY: Back then, there were several rugby scholarships. We were fortunate to go to school, play rugby, and have part of our tuition taken care of. I was able to see so many places that I may never have seen because of rugby. Rugby also gave us real-time chiropractic experience. After Palmer, I went through the CCSP (Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician) program, and they talked about injuries that most people had only read about. Through rugby, I already had first-hand knowledge.

Claire, what is one thing you’d like Bobby to know about rugby as it is now on Palmer’s campus?
CLAIRE: I don’t think rugby alumni know how much we appreciate the connections we have with them. It means a lot to us when alumni come out to watch our games. We also shadow with alumni in practice. Our relationship with rugby alumni is so important and appreciated.
Bobby, what is one piece of advice you’d like to give Claire?

BOBBY: Enjoy your time playing at Palmer. Any team you’re on and any sport you play, you’ll never have the camaraderie that you’ll experience with your teammates at Palmer. The environment is fulfilling because you’re around people whose goals are to become chiropractors and play rugby at the same time.

What do you hope for the future of rugby?
CLAIRE: It’s grown a lot recently because of great leadership and coaches who’ve created a culture where everyone has a common goal and I hope it continues to grow.

BOBBY: We want to make sure rugby continues to grow, and we need support from our alumni to make that happen. Consider what you may charge for two or three adjustments and give that back to the College monthly. We don’t want alumni to forget how much the program gave to them.

A look back at Dr. Rendina’s team photo from 1982.

What does rugby mean to Palmer College?
CLAIRE: It’s a great way to showcase the College. We travel to other cities where we can demonstrate our sportsmanship, our leadership, and our values. Other teams always seem to take an interest in chiropractic, and it makes for pretty cool conversations.

BOBBY: Palmer rugby teams always show up prepared. Opponents notice that. We play like we practice, on the field and in the clinic. Our goal was always to win, to promote chiropractic and to promote Palmer.

Bobby—What can alumni do to help the players through school and on the team?
CLAIRE: We’d love to have alumni lead workshops when they’re in town so we can learn more about chiropractic and what it’s like to be in practice. It’s a great way to strengthen the connection.

Claire—What have you learned from Palmer rugby that has carried over into practice?
BOBBY: Put your head down and work hard, like you’re doing a penalty play five yards out, you’ve got to push through. That’s what you have to do in practice. You have to do your thing, care for your patients, and show them what it means to be a Palmer-educated chiropractor.

READ MORE from Palmer Proud Magazine