I began playing rugby about five years ago during my first semester in college.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Women in rugby? Does it take a super athletic woman to play rugby? Are you all Lesbians? Surely you guys don’t play full contact?” Any question you’ve got, I’ve heard it. Let’s answer a few, shall we?
Women in rugby?
Yes, women play rugby and it’s becoming increasingly popular in the United States. It hasn’t taken off as much on the West Coast as it has on the East, but we’re getting there!
Does it take a super athletic woman to play rugby?
No. You do not have to be an athlete, but you do need to want to have fun! I did have a pretty sports and activity-heavy child hood, playing goalie in soccer for over 12 years, women’s arena football, rock climbing, trail running, all of that. I do know many women who did not have this kind of background and absolutely love playing rugby. My favorite part about it is that there is NO body type necessary. Thin, quick, and graceful? Great! A position in the back for you! Slower, heavier, stronger, and more prone to falling down? Fantastic! Join the forwards!
Are you all Lesbians?
Ah yes, my favorite question. No, we’re not all lesbians. I mean, I’m not, but some of the people that I love the most on my team are. It’s not a requirement. You may get teased about it because it comes with the rugby stereotype and because you spend a lot of time touching other girl’s butts and boobs (sometimes it comes with the position and other times it accidentally happens), but as long as you have a good sense of humor and are able to joke around with the other girls—you’ll be absolutely fine. Hell, I’ve accidentally pulled off girls’ shirts and pants during a game and we all laughed about it.
Surely you don’t play full-contact?
My favorite part of rugby is that in women’s rugby, no punches are pulled (sometimes literally). We play with the same amount of protection as men (a mouth guard and, rarely, a “scrum” cap) and yes, we play full-contact.
Full-contact to anybody sounds terrifying, I know, but all women (health and other reasons permitting) should give rugby a shot.
You get in fantastic shape:
Like I said, regardless of body type, rugby will give you a workout. Forwards will do more heavy-lifting, pushing, and slower-game tackling, while the backs will do more running and faster-game tackling.
You burn about 1,500 calories (Yep! You heard that right. 1,500 calories. Imagine all of the pizza you could eat with that!) in a game scenario because of all the running, getting knocked down, getting back up quickly, and running more. It’s like a more fun version of CrossFit.
The first semester I played, I lost about 20 pounds, and gained an amazing amount of lean muscle.
All muscles are used during the game, even the ones you forgot you had, especially as a forward (where you perform Olympic-like lifts). I have never been more pleasantly sore than I have after a rugby game and I cannot ever seem to get the same type of work out off the field as I do on.
You meet the best people:
I’ve always been convinced that all of our anger and a lot of our stress is left on the field. It’s a bit like an active meditation in a way. Because of this, most rugby players are incredibly laid back and willing to help wherever. Even if you’re not a rugger (yep, we get the cool name too) we will help you in the middle of a blizzard, if you need a tire change, or even a push out of a snow bank. We’ve got your back, especially because we’ve played in much worse. We call it conditioning!
Rugby players may seem angry on the field, but we’re not. Hell, even by the end of the game, the home team will almost always take the visiting team out for pizza and beer.
You have some awesome stories:
Yeah, most of the stories come from some of the great bruises and injuries and trying to explain to people that no, you do not have somebody abusing you (though, if you did, your team would probably march over there and kick some ass. You can tell the difference between game bruises and abuse.) And we love comparing battle wounds after a game.
Many other stories revolve the adventures that happen while traveling with your team, whether it is mooning the players in the other van, being introduced over the intercom by the flight crew and the captain on a fully-booked airline on your way to Nationals, and staying in cities you only dreamed you’d visit. The list is endless.
It involves a high amount of skill:
To most people, rugby looks like a mess of limbs and brutality. It’s not. Rugby, by and large, is one of the safest sports because of the skill that is taught to players to ensure they do not get injured. There’s even a special way to tackle so that both players can make it to the ground safely.
It takes another bit of skill to perfect your own ways of tackling. I even had mine. I was strong and heavy (I’m pretty dense musculature wise), so if I could manage to grab onto at least the tail of a jersey, I could get anybody to the ground.
There is also quite a bit that goes into planning plays. There are some games that are more defensive and others that are more offensive and usually, you will not know how the game will go that day until you’re on the pitch (what we call a playing field) and have to plan on the fly. If it’s raining or snowing, you usually keep the ball with the forwards, sticking to short passes and long drives. If the weather is perfect and hot? You can play long passes out to the backs and let them run and, as a forward, hope you can manage to catch up to them before they get tackled.
It makes you really think about what it means to be a woman:
Few sports really allow you to show your true strength, like rugby does, especially in women’s sports. There’s something about bringing a woman twice your size to the ground without any trouble. It makes you feel a bit like a lion taking down a hippo, which, trust me, is actually cooler than it sounds.
I’ve also known many women who suffered with various eating disorders who came to respect their body more because they allowed it to unleash its potential. Even if women did not have these disorders, you learn to appreciate that being strong is beautiful, even if it’s not what society considers “feminine.”
And if you are the perfect societal “feminine,” rugby would be an excellent fit for you, too!
And most importantly,
It is the most fun sport you will ever play:
This may be a little biased, but out of all the sports I’ve ever played, this is by far the most fun. I may be a little twisted, but even the rookies who come out the first year who are unsure of the sport usually stay around for a few more years. There’s just something about releasing all the stress built up after a day at school and hanging out with some of your most favorite people in the whole world for a few hours a week. It’s the best feeling ever.
This sport is one that’s worth a shot, whether it’s for one of the reasons above, or all of them. I guarantee, especially if you’re a woman, rugby will open your eyes to something you’ve never experienced before.
What are you gals waiting for? Wherever you are, there is likely a women’s league near you, whether you are from San Diego or Maryland. If there’s not, start your own league, even if it’s just passing the ball around for a few hours! If your team is looking for some competition, you can register as a club on usarugby.org.
Author: Mercedes Trujillo
Apprentice Editor: Leah Wallin; Editor: Renee Picard
Image: Erik (HASH) Hersman at Flickr