Women's rugby team battles stereotypesBy Caroline Gazzara | 03/12/2014 11:00pm
Unknown to most of the University, the women’s rugby team has been chipping away at stereotypes.
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Senior Caitlin Reilly, president of the women’s rugby team, said there is still a stigma when people hear about the sport.
“I feel like this is always what happens when you talk about rugby,” Reilly said. “People say, ‘You guys are so tough,’ and I’m like, ‘We’re just a bunch of people who enjoy a sport.’ We’re tough, but I don't feel like walking down the street, people would think, ‘I’m terrified of this girl,’ which is what everyone thinks of when they think of women’s rugby. For us, we picked a sport and went, ‘Oh, this is kind of cool.’”
The team played the University of North Georgia last Saturday and lost 27-24. The team is contesting the final score because it claims the referee did not attribute a try, which would have given the team a 29-24 win. Currently sitting in second place in the South Independent Regional Conference, Alabama (3-1, 2-1 SIRC) plays its last home game Saturday against Kennesaw State.
“They have some strong players,” Reilly said. “And they have one really fast girl who can get outside and scoot all the way down the field. But for the most part – I don’t want to say that we’re not worried – but we’re comfortable playing them.”
After the team plays Kennesaw State, it will head into the playoffs starting March 29.
Despite the social stigma against them, Reilly said the team has been fortunate enough to have a good fan base.
“If anything, [people] just think it’s cool and interesting that we play a sport that not many people know about,” Reilly said. “But for the most part, everyone thinks it’s really cool.”
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Averaging 26 players this season, Reilly said the team has been doing a lot of recruiting this year. Though it has been challenging, senior Courtney Milner said it’s less of a physical issue and more of a mental one.
“I definitely think that it helps when we try to recruit and stuff because we stand outside and hold up signs at Get on Board Day, girls will be like, ‘Do I look like a rugby player?’ or ‘Do I look big enough to be a rugby player?’ and then we get offended because we’re like, ‘Do we look like rugby players?’” Milner said. “So I guess it gives people an idea that it doesn’t really matter what your body type is like. It’s a mindset.”
Milner has been playing rugby since she was in high school, but senior Bree Saxe said she wishes she had joined sooner.
“Women’s rugby is not a very recognized sport in the United States in general and especially in Alabama,” Saxe said. “We’re the only team in Alabama that actively plays. So we travel a lot to get games in. Recruiting here is so hard because the girls don’t want to play, and we just want to bring awareness to the school that we actually exist.”
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