Why you should play rugby

Why+you+should+play+rugby

Catherine Mignone

Last March I played in Los Angeles 7’s, a national rugby tournament. I arrived at the airport and drove to meet my academy team for a late-afternoon practice. I was nervous and excited for the next few days, during which I would be playing multiple rugby games every day. On the second day of the tournament, we played a team from Maui. My favorite moment from that game was scoring — I saw a gap in Maui’s defense and ran to the try zone. I felt so proud and accomplished — we had kept our focus as a team and continued to try to win even though the opposite team was bigger. That evening, we had a huge dinner by our training complex and celebrated each other’s successes. 

I love that the sport is not just about playing a game, but also about the community you build as a result. After every game, the home team invites the opposite team to a short lunch or celebration and the players on each team make friends with each other and grow their rugby network. After five years of rugby, I have met players who live in South Africa, the UAE, England, and Ireland, as well as players from over fifteen states. I love playing rugby for the individual success, the team celebration and support, and the community I have built over the past five years. 

I started planning a Horace Mann rugby team in the seventh grade, and by the eighth grade, we established a high school program for the following year. 2019 was Horace Mann Girls Varsity Rugby’s inaugural season and we were extraordinarily successful for a first-year team. Though the 2020 season was canceled, we hosted explanatory Zooms all spring season so that girls new to the sport could learn the game. This year, we had a full season, playing three games and winning all of them. The biggest issue with getting rugby back up again this year was finding girls who wanted to play. There are currently eight people who play rugby on the school team. While these numbers allow us to play full games, we would love more members so that we can have larger scrimmages in practice. 

So, why should you join the rugby team? 

First, it’s fun! We have dynamic practices where we focus on a skill or two and then play a game of touch rugby. I can confidently say that everyone is smiling during practice. We take a self-timer photo of us jumping after every practice as a way to take attendance, and we are flexible with students who want to partake in other extracurriculars while remaining on the team. Overall, the team is supportive and accepting — for example, we are one of the only teams that you can join with absolutely zero experience. Five girls on the team this year had never picked up a rugby ball and one had never played a sport in her life. Despite this, every single girl dedicated herself and her focus to rugby during practice and it paid off: we won all three games against a team that has had an established rugby program for a number of years. 

Second, it’s safe. When I was working on getting approval for a rugby program, one of the major blocks was safety and concussion protocol. Although rugby is a contact sport, the way rugby uses contact is different from the way football uses contact. In rugby, you learn how to fall properly after being tackled before being allowed to tackle. Coaches only allow players to tackle once the coach is certain that the player can tackle and be tackled safely. Furthermore, high school rugby referees call not only high tackles, but also other tackles that seem unsafe. I have played rugby for five years and have never gotten a concussion or any other injury; football players cannot say the same. 

Third, rugby is a growing sport in the U.S. Women’s rugby is the fastest growing sport in the country, and after Title IX, collegiate women’s rugby programs significantly expanded. Women’s rugby Sevens is an Olympic sport and played professionally within the U.S. At many colleges, there are approachable rugby club teams that you can join to learn the sport, and at others, there are established varsity programs that win championships and send players to the Olympic women’s rugby squad. It is a privilege to be playing the sport as I watch it grow, and I hope that you join me.