UVM Rugby - Not Just a Game for the Boys

UVM Athletics

By Katherine Duhaime

By Katherine Duhaime
Unigo Campus Rep at UVM

When most people hear the word rugby, they imagine burly men charging at each other without any padding on.  It’s a tough sport which has developed the reputation of being a game predominately played by men.  However, the UVM women’s rugby team combats this stereotype completely.

For a school that doesn’t even have its own football team, many people would be surprised that UVM has had a women’s rugby team since the mid 1970’s.  If you drive down East Avenue on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, you’ll be sure to catch the women hard at practice.  What you’ll see will change your ideas about the dubbed “masculine” sport.  A group of normal looking girls running laps and going through drills is far from the imagined gorilla athlete image that’s connected with the sport.  Surely rugby isn’t the most typical sport for women, but with a history of winning more games than some of our funded teams, it’s starting to come into its own as a respected sport at UVM. 

The sport has never had trouble finding new recruits. Currently there are more girls on the team than can be taken to away games.  While women’s rugby games usually draw between 50-100 spectators, the team’s coach, nicknamed Dougie, feels that the sport is well received by the school and town community.  “We don’t always get a huge crowd for our home games, but this parents weekend we had over 300 people out here cheering us on.  That’s a lot more than we normally get, so interest is growing,” he said.

Interest is surely growing, as this year the team has the highest number of freshmen and sophomore recruits to date.  Ellie May, a UVM sophomore, said that she wanting to join after seeing the sport played abroad.  “I was traveling in New Zealand after high school and saw the sport played there.  It looked really fun and when I found out it was offered at UVM I joined right away.”  Megan Holt, a junior at UVM, recounted when she was first interested in signing up to play. “I heard it was a fun, really physical sport.  It’s also not very common, and I wanted to be involved in something that was so intense and unusual. I still don’t know all of the game, but I’m catching on as time goes on,” she said.

Due to the fact that rugby is not as commonly played in the United States as in other countries, people aren’t as likely to understand the rules of the game.  Senior Scottie Taylor, one of the team’s captains, explained rugby as being, “Kind of the same as football, but there aren’t as many injuries.”  Despite her reassurance that the game isn’t as brutal as its reputation makes it out to be, some of the other players contended that this year alone their team has seen two girls break a leg. Taylor admitted, “It’s scary when you get on that field for the first time.  My first game I was like a chicken with my head cut off!  You learn through the experience of being thrown right into it, and eventually you learn to save yourself from injury.” 

UVM’s student government helps keep women’s Rugby going by providing some funding for the team.  In addition to that financial support, the team has seasonal dues of fifty dollars per player.  The dues don’t seem to bother the girls, and the overall vibe is upbeat and close-knit.   Each rookie player is given a nickname at the start of the season and the upperclassmen make an effort to integrate them into the team as quickly as possible.  Braelin Ingvoldstae, a senior at UVM has been on the team for two years now.  “People take what they want from the team,” she said. There are definitely some girls who hang out mostly with teammates off the field, while others keep this separate from their social life. We’re generally a pretty close group though.”

Although it’s only a club sport, the team is as unified as any other at UVM.  This unity has helped the team advance to the final four of the 2008 New England Rugby Championships for Division II.  So far the team has only lost one game this season, making their victory in the championship a strong possibility.  For a sport that has not yet hit the mainstream, UVM women’s rugby has proven to be a success.  With the number of annual recruits on the rise and an almost undefeated season, the sport seems to be on its way towards greater recognition both at UVM and in the world of college rugby.