The opportunity to play rugby in the Olympics seemed far-fetched to Joe Schroeder.
After a standout career at Cathedral High School, Schroeder attended Trine University, which didn’t have a rugby team.
“I thought my rugby days might have to be over,” said Schroeder, who grew up in Westfield. “I remember going to a game in Ohio and thinking, ‘I’ve got to get back into this.’ I decided to join the men’s club (in Columbus, Ohio) and picked it up from there. I didn’t know it was going to take me to here, which is crazy.”
The 6-foot-5 Schroeder has been training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., the past two years. The USA Olympics Rugby Sevens team will be determined later this year. Schroeder will likely compete with 25-plus other players for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. The Olympics start July 24 in Tokyo. Rugby Sevens became an Olympic sport in 2016.
“I got noticed, which was crazy. I was at a random training and one of the (USA) assistant coaches showed up and said, ‘Let’s give this guy a shot,’” Schroeder said. “I came out for a couple months to test out the team. They offered me full time and I said, ‘I got to take this opportunity.’ I didn’t know if I had a chance at the Olympics, but now here I am playing decently well. I’ll be able to give it a good shot.”
Schroeder, 26, recently finished his master’s degree in civil engineering from Ohio University and works part-time as a project engineer with waste water design.
“My main focus is rugby right now,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder, who receives a stipend for being on the team, recently returned from tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town, South Africa. For World Rugby Sevens Series tours, Schroeder said there are 12 players, plus an alternate.
Rugby Union, which is played in high school and college, is 15-on-15.
Cathedral won the state rugby title four years ago and won a national championship his senior year in 2012.
Schroeder, who played football at Cathedral, attended Trine University for engineering. He was a Trine cheerleader for three years.
“I had played one season of Sevens before I got here, but I’ve come to enjoy and love the game,” he said. “It’s such a fast version of the game.”