RUGBY RECRUITS MORE THAN JUST ROUGHNESS

SOPHIE KENNEY

smkenney11@ole.augie.edu
 
 Junior Meagan O’Connell, president of the Augustana rugby club, charges downfield for the Vikings.


Junior Meagan O’Connell, president of the Augustana rugby club, charges downfield for the Vikings.

Augustana women’s rugby is looking for a few more players to round out the 2013-2014 team roster.

Fifteen players are needed per side for official rugby matches, and the team is still looking to recruit four or five more women to join the current fall season.

After a successful scrimmage against St. Olaf to open the year, the team is excited for the future, but will not be able to fulfill postseason ambitions if more players do not join. Team leaders are hopeful potential players won’t be scared off by the sport’s intimidating stereotype.

“A lot of girls think that rugby is all about hitting each other, and that can discourage people from trying out,” said junior inside center Meagan O’Connell. “What many people don’t know is that there’s a lot more to rugby than just the contact.”

O’Connell remembers considering those stereotypes before joining the team. Like the majority of her teammates, she was not planning on taking up rugby before arriving on campus.

Completely unfamiliar with the sport, O’Connell had never played or watched a rugby match before her freshman year. She was, however, familiar with the excitement of competition and the camaraderie of team sports.

“When I got here, I realized I needed some sort of competitive outlet,” O’Connell said, “but I didn’t find an intramural sport that I really wanted to play.”

Like many other students on campus that participated in high school sports, O’Connell was accustomed to competing against other schools.

“Intramurals are great, but I didn’t want to play against ‘Second Floor Solberg.’ I wanted to travel and play other schools, which isn’t really possible for most intramural teams.”

When the Augustana women’s rugby team began their fall recruiting, O’Connell made the decision to try out the unfamiliar sport.

Two years later, O’Connell is glad she took the risk. The junior is the current president of the Augustana women’s rugby club and field captain for the 2013-2014 squad.

“Rugby is a unique experience at Augustana because, as a club sport, it gives students a chance to travel and face more serious competition, while still offering more flexibility than the varsity sports on campus,” O’Connell said.

New players will also have the opportunity to be taught under experienced leadership. Entering his second season with the team is head coach Bryn Chivers. Born in Wales, Chivers brings vast knowledge of the game as a player and a coach, having previously worked with the U20 USA National team, among others. Chivers is assisted by Kelsie Pace, an Augustana alumna.

Current players on the team assert that students should give rugby a shot, regardless of athletic ability or prior experience.

“Rugby is a fantastic sport that anyone can get into,” junior prop Courtney Healey said. “The only way to know if the sport is for you is to play.”

Healey also acknowledged her own concerns before trying out, but believes that the contact in rugby is what makes the game special.

“I was a little intimidated by the contact at first, but after playing, each hit I made was empowering,” Healey said.

Although contact is an inevitable aspect of playing rugby, O’Connell encourages potential players to not shy away from the game’s physicality.

“For girls thinking of joining rugby, don’t be afraid of the contact,” she said. “We have experienced coaches that teach you the proper form and how to use contact the right way.”

If you’re a student looking to fill the post-high school void of team competition, or just wanting to try something new, the rugby team wants to provide an outlet.

“No matter how weak you think you are, the contact can show you how strong you actually are,” Healey said.

While the team acknowledges the stereotypes that come with playing rugby, they feel that appearances can be deceiving.

“We’re tough on the field, but we like to think we’re not intimidating off the field,” O’Connell said, adding, “It’s all about the camaraderie. We have a lot of fun together, and it’s a great way to meet new people while also getting some exercise in.”

O’Connell encourages players interested in joining to check out a practice on the Augustana green, or to use the contact information on the team’s Facebook page.

Next up for the women’s rugby team is a road game at Macalester College on Oct. 5, followed by a home game against the University of Wisconsin-River Falls on Oct. 12.