There are tries and a ruck and a scrum. The terminology is foreign to many American sports fans, and each concept requires its own paragraph. But there may be a solution on the horizon to expanding the country's knowledge of rugby.
'We need people to watch it,' said Wauwatosa's Jane Paar, 27, who will likely be one of the United States athletes bringing the sport into people's living rooms this August. 'Explaining it to someone … all people seem to know is you can pass the ball backwards and then run forward at full contact, and it never stops. The best way is to explain it is to show it to somebody, and I think that's going to be huge.'
Paar swears she doesn't have an inkling whether or not she'll be among the 14 selections for the United States Olympic sevens rugby team, chosen July 5 from a roster of 24 players currently training in Chula Vista, California. The Eagles Player of the Year in 2015 stands to have a decent shot, however, to be part of rugby's reintroduction to the Olympics program for the first time since 1924.
'I don't really focus on what teams I played with in the past or even the Olympics yet; it's still day to day,' she said. 'We have a select tournament coming up, and no one knows who's going. At this level, it's not like the team is set and we just play together, with maybe a few players getting switched out. With rugby, someone could get hurt, and it just depends who plays the best together. Even if you're the best player on the team, maybe you don't go to the Olympics because you don't play well with anyone else who's going.'
If she does make the trip to Rio de Janeiro, it won't be the first time she's competed internationally. She's competed in China, Canada, Dubai and Alaska in addition to promotional stops across her home country. And the international lifestyle isn't likely to cease even after her playing days are over – she is, after all, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a U.S. Marine.
'The Marine Corps is obviously my first and foremost responsibility,' she said. 'They've allowed me to do it for the past couple years on and off. There was always a doubt, and I would have completely understood if they pulled me back and put me back in full time duty. They've allowed me to continue to do this, I've been lucky with that.'
Paar's exposure to the sport began in 2006 when she was asked by a friend at Wauwatosa East High School to participate in the club sport. She continued playing the sport in the military academy, and her parents paid a visit to watch her in Annapolis, Maryland, and were introduced to the head women's rugby coach from Penn State.
'When he hears that we were Jane's parents, he tells us how after they got beat by Navy, he called up the coach of the U.S. Women's Team and asked him if he had ever heard of Jane Paar,' said Jane's father, Mike Paar. 'The guy said, 'No,' so the Penn State coach proceeds to describe how this Jane Paar person beat their team nearly single-handedly and that he might want to consider taking a look at her.'
Then-Eagles coach Ric Suggitt invited Jane to a rugby camp in Denver.
'I had no idea that this opportunity would even occur,' Jane said. 'I played rugby and basketball in college because I thought it was fun, and when the U.S. team gave me a call, I didn't even understand it then when I went to the first camp. I just thought it was another opportunity to play rugby, which was great. Once I got there, that's when I understood that this was a much bigger thing.'
At the time, the 'Eagles' were just starting a full-time athlete program for women, starting with nine players on contract. Paar wasn't among those nine at first but was offered a contract within a year.
The Navy allowed Paar to continue the pursuit, even stationing her close to the Chula Vista training center at Camp Pendleton in California, roughly 55 miles away. She recently finished her credentials to become a Military Police officer.
'It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I try to take advantage of it every day.'
The sevens style represents a much faster style of play than 15s, another rugby format not represented in the Olympics. Matches are just 14 minutes in length, divided into two seven-minute halves. Sevens tournaments frequently feature matches stacked on top of each other, with teams jetted quickly on and off the field.
'Sevens players tend to be a little bit smaller,' said Paar, who stands 5-6. 'It's just being able to be fast and quick and do your individual job to your best of your ability. It's more tactical than strategic (as 15s are). The coach pretty much has no control over the game (in sevens); we're on our own on the field and working together. A lot of stuff I learned training in the Marine Corps has gone over to rugby, about being a good leader on the team.'
Ages on the team vary wildly. Paar's youngest teammate is just 17 years old, and the oldest is 35 and just began playing rugby in the past few years.
'It's a very diverse group on this team,' Paar said. 'We have a couple who only started playing two years ago, and the coach recruited them (from other sports) and taught them to play rugby. We have some who have been playing their whole lives. The great thing about the next Olympics (in 2020) is pretty much everyone is going to have played from a young age. That will be a huge advantage for those players that have played for so long.
'It's actually already started growing rapidly in the amount of programs that have gone varsity in the time since I've started,' she added. 'People are starting to get scholarships, and it's becoming possible for high schoolers to use it to get to college.'
And for those in college to find an even bigger stage.