It began in Swaziland, South Africa, where children grow up playing rugby.
It’s where Tyler Black, then 16, fell in love with the sport when his family was living there for about a year and a half, helping with orphan outreach.
“He came home one day and was like ‘dad you have to see what I’m doing, It’s so much fun,’” said Gary Black, 44, Tyler’s father.
The passion for the game escalated with Tyler’s competitive spirit. He began competing on the national team in South Africa and even moved back to the states early to begin playing club rugby.
Now he and brother Michael are both on national teams. Tyler, now 20, spent the beginning of the summer overseas playing in Georgia with the Under-20 USA Rugby team. His brother, Michael Black, 17, is a player on the U18 team traveling to South Africa later this month.
Both hope to continue representing their country as long as possible.
“Our lives are rugby,” Michael said. “Just the whole game, it’s just so different it’s like really a brotherhood. You can become so close to the players. It’s different then football and baseball.”
When Tyler began playing in South Africa, joining the men’s club team and eventually representing the country on the national level, his brother liked to watch but wasn’t interested in playing.
It wasn’t until the family returned to the states in 2008 that both brothers became involved, playing for the Colorado Springs High School Grizzlies team, based at Pine Creek. After becoming close in South Africa, rugby is what kept the duo together as best friends, even if it doesn’t always look that way on the field.
“Before games, to get pumped up he’d come up and hit me in the face like a real hard slap, I’d slap him back,” Michael said. “He’d punch me, I’d punch him. We get real physical to where it hurts. We just get so pumped up from it. It gets a little crazy.”
Games are a competition between them, each striving to score more.
“When your little brother scores and you haven’t yet, when he does something good, it just pushes you, motivates you,” Tyler said.
And when one scores, the brothers celebrate together, having their own “high five in the air,” Gary said.
Since Tyler graduated high school, the two were separated by Tyler attending and playing for Life University in Georgia and Michael remaining in the Springs with one year of high school left.
“It’s weird being separated, but we still talk on the phone every day and talk about all our games,” Tyler said.
They plan to reconnect, hoping to attend the same college to play together and ideally make it to the 2016 Olympics — where rugby (sevens as opposed to the usual rugby union 15) will be returning as a sport at Rio de Janeiro.
“We’ll see if things work out, if they’re ready, if their bodies last that long,” Gary said. “But that’s the ultimate goal and it would be incredible.”
The brothers enjoy playing for USA because they like traveling and playing with athletes on higher levels.
“There’s nothing like the way they play in other countries where they grew up with the sport,” Tyler said.