NORTHBROOK — Glenbrook North senior Jay Kim is one of the state’s best rugby players. He played hooker for the Lake Forest Harriers during the spring and played several matches with Illinois’ all-state team this summer in the United Kingdom.
There are several similarities between rugby and football for Kim, who’s also a lineman for Glenbrook North. For one, leverage is crucial in both sports. The low man wins, and Kim, at 5-8 and 215 pounds, often comes out on top.
Another similarity, at least in the Spartans’ third and fourth games of the season, is how infrequently Kim leaves the field. Kim entered the season expected to start only on the defensive line, but he also became a starting guard Sept. 12 after junior center Jacob Zatz suffered a concussion. Zatz is expected to return this week.
Kim played on all 85 of Glenbrook North’s offensive plays against Niles West on Friday, according to Glenbrook North coach Bob Pieper. The Spartans staff tried to give him occasional breathers on defense during the Wolves’ 53-24 victory, but he also appeared on many special teams units because of injuries.
After the game, Kim was exhausted.
“I’m cramping really badly. It’s pretty terrible,” Kim said. “I’ve just got to hydrate more during the game.”
That’s easier said than done for somebody who barely comes off the field, though. Kim said the hardest parts about playing as much as he did against Niles West — Pieper estimated it was about 130 plays — was dealing with the fatigue, heavy breathing and staying hydrated.
Spartans coaches have stressed the importance of hydrating throughout the week, and Kim said he tries to drink a gallon of water each day. He carries around a gallon when he’s at home and said he drinks out of a water fountain each time he walks by one at school.
Although he didn’t have much time for water breaks during weeks 3 and 4, Kim is used to that. That’s what playing rugby is like, he said, and it has prepared him for the mental fatigue that comes with playing both ways.
Glenbrook North — which has several two-way starters, including senior David Burnside and junior Dimitrije Milutinovic — has focused on conditioning since the beginning of summer practices. The Spartans (1-3 going into Friday’s game at Maine East) continue to spend time working on their fitness during the week making sure players like Kim are ready for a huge workload on Fridays.
“We’ve done some stuff that Oregon has done with their fast-paced offense and some of their conditioning drills that we’ve got at clinics and stuff, so I think they’re in pretty good condition,” Pieper said. “Instead of just getting up and running 10 [40-yard dashes], it might be a 60, a 40, a 10, a 15, a 70. You alternate between longer and shorter distances, and it’s quick bursts sometimes. It might be five yards, and then 70.”