Brown University Women Tour Uganda for Rugby, for Women’s Rugby, for African Rugby
By Alex Goff
March 23, 2006 – With Spring Break approaching or in full swing for many colleges, some college teams take tours.
Few are as intriguing, though, as that of the Brown University women’s squad, who are, as we speak, landing in Uganda for their spring break.
The whole thing was prompted by Brown player Jen Hustwitt, who spent time in Uganda working. She was struck by the commitment and raw potential for the Ugandan women’s rugby teams she observed there, and wondered if perhaps a tour there could serve more than one purpose: to improve Brown’s rugby, to raise the level of Ugandan rugby, and to open up a few horizons.
“The concept is that there be a mutual benefit for both rugby programs,” Hustwitt told GoffonRugby. “I don’t like the idea of one-sided helping.”
Hustwitt is working on a paper that posits the concept of competition and cooperation coming hand-in-hand. She uses as her metaphor the scrum, where competition from the opposing side is critical to the proper execution of a scrum. While teams attempt to dominate a scrum, such domination means the scrum cannot exist.
This idea she hopes to spread in the sport as a whole, and with a well-educated, fairly well-funded American rugby team going to Uganda to promote women’s rugby, she hopes to make it all a reality.
The tour had been an enormous amount of work, as alumni and school were brought in to help pay for the $122,000 tour bill (the club’s normal per-semester grant is $5,000). Most of the funding has been from small-scale donations of $5 to $25.
“It also took a huge commitment from the players, and it’s understandable that several had some questions about what it would be like,” she said.
On the field the tour is expected to help a young Brown team bond and learn. They will also be taking a couple of accomplished alumni (Steph Bruce, Liz Terry) to bolster the squad. Hustwitt seems equally excited about what it can do for Uganda.
I watched Uganda play Kenya and they’ve got size, they’ve got speed; what they lack is competition,” she said. “They have enormous potential.”
The tour itself is big news in Uganda. It’s made several major newspapers and the buzz is big in the city’s capital of Kampala.
“It seems funny because of where rugby is here in the USA, but it’s interesting to see what it means to be going to play rugby there,” said Hustwitt. “An Ivy league university in the States playing a team in Africa? That doesn’t happen.”
On the field it’s a bit of a risk. Brown is more rugby savvy, Uganda perhaps more athletic. Both sides see a lot riding on the games.
Hustwitt is the only one on the team that has seen Brown’s opponents play.
She assures us: “The games will be really good and they will be really close.”
And in some ways, maybe it won’t matter.
I really like her analogy of the scrum, don’t you? And Brown women, nice web site.