When junior Coby Fecher was 18 years old, he was originally planning to meet up with someone he trusted. But the situation took a turn as he was sexually assaulted by a man. Fecher said the experience left him fearful of men. 

“It's caused me a lot of pain, suffering, and it's actually been hard for me to be around men around my age, especially if they're bigger and taller than me, as he was bigger and taller than me,” Fecher said. 

Around the same time, Fecher joined Tobacco Road Rugby Club in Durham while attending Alamance Community College. Fecher said rugby had been in his life for a while but playing now helped him work through his feelings. 

“I started playing rugby and that helped me feel a little bit better,” Fecher said.

Fecher said he found himself surrounded by peers of varying sizes and builds, allowing him to gradually overcome his anxieties about interacting with men. Fecher also said the camaraderie and lighthearted banter within the rugby community provided him with a sense of belonging that had been missing from his life.

“It's been the biggest outlet of my life because I can come out here and imagine the guy, then I can go crash and tackle him and it'll be all over with,” Fecher said. “It's cathartic. … It makes me feel better, at the end of the game I feel a lot more level headed … and just happier all around.”

In the few years Fecher has played rugby, he said he has seen improvement and so has his friend Frances Crabtree, who Fecher met at ACC and was the only person he told about the incident at the time. 

“Coby has grown mentally and physically in a very positive way, and rugby has helped him grow by just giving him a community around him that supports him and shows that he is important to the team," Crabtree said.

After feeling and seeing the improvement from his time at the Tobacco Road Rugby Club, it was an easy decision for Fecher to join the Elon club team when he transferred last fall.

“I've been able to connect with guys my age, some of them bigger and taller, and find a sense of camaraderie and support I never expected," Fecher said.

While Fecher still has concerns about dating, he said he is no longer afraid due to his experiences with rugby.

"I've been able to experience a lot of jokes, a lot of camaraderie, and I've been able to really overcome my fears as men for the most part," Fecher said.