Monthly Archives: April 2006

Help Blondie Be A Better Scrumhalf …

And put a pin in her map, you scurvy rugby lasses and lads …

(And no, I have no explanation for my use of pirate talk. Aarrrggghhhh!)

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Thoughts on D-I and D-2 Teams

More thoughts from a reader on our discussion on the women shunning scrums article.

Ssee here, here and here for previous posts.

Emily in New Jersey e-mailed me this today about D-I and D-2 women’s teams (I added italics) …

Hi Blondie,
In response to one of the comments on the page http://saturdayrugbyday.blogspot.com/2006/04/our-thoughts-on-women-shunning-scrums.html:

This I fully agree with:
“Another issue I’ve heard is the difficulty in finding a club since many grads don’t have the cash to live in Manhattan/SF/Chicago or the intensity of D1 might be too much for younger players. This is where supporting D2 level clubs is important. It is easier to start a D2 club in the suburbs or remote areas and they tend to have less expensive travel requirements. Only issue is some of the more competitive players might get bored on a lower level w/out intense competition but this might be remedied by some sort of D2 ITTs or seasonal D2 AllStar matches.” & “Unfortunately there are too few D1 teams to absorb all the college grads(even factoring in D1 B-Sides) so it seems only a relatively few All American level players stick it out in D1. Again, a better developed D2 league might help.”

I am currently with a D2 side, and it is perfect for me. Competitive, but not elite, D2 allows those of us without the time/money/location/desire/ability to compete at the elite level to play rugby! I would like to see D2 grow more nationwide, and hope it does so as the women that are responsible for the doubling of the number of college sides graduate. All territories would be well served to differentiate between D1 and D2 sides, as a viable D2 helps keep players in the game. I am sure it is discouraging to live in Houston and play for HARC and be constantly crushed by the Austin Valks. Furthermore, Men’s rugby has Super League, D1, D2 and D3, all of which have national championships, allowing men of all levels to aim high and compete! Us women should have the same! (ok, at least D1 & D2!)

Now, the below I take issue with:
“In this instance D1 teams might play a Big Sister role to local D2 clubs(sort of like the farm team system in baseball). NYRCW seems to do this by helping out some of the Village Lions(NYC) and Morris(New Jersey) players via the NRU by including select players in some training routines. NYRCW’s benevolence raises the level of local D2 competition and also provides themselves a nice feeder system for future players without bloating their A & B sides.”

Morris & the Village Lions are fully self sufficient clubs and are not “helped out” by NYRC. Also, the NYRC does not run the NRU Select Side and it is insulting to imply that the non-NY players that are selected are done so as a favor to the D2 teams (or Beantown, Boston, and Keystone). It is true that some players have left D2 teams over the years to play for NY and hone their skills in hopes of make the WNT pool. I suspect this also occurs in areas where D2 doesn’t exist between D1 teams of different levels of competitiveness (ie Denver Black Ice and the Olde Girls). However, lets keep in mind that there are players with non-elite teams (ie. Houser, Braymer) that are in the WNT pool. On a related note, the B-side of elite teams like NYRCW tend to be very competitive in matches with good D2 sides. I believe that if the B-side players are being groomed to play elite rugby, this shows the level of competition in D2 to be significant.

Cheers,
Emily
President, Morris Women

Thanks Emily for giving us a further perspective on this issue.

I know from my own experience on a D-I team that’s struggling in a very tough league, we play a lot of really good D-2 teams to stay competitive outside of our conference like the Detroit Women and the Minneapolis Menagerie. And we also have a history of our players moving to more competitive fellow D-1 teams like the Valkyries, North Shore and New York, like you mentioned with your Denver/Black Ice example.

I think it is only a matter of time before USA Rugby sanctions D-2 women’s rugby and hopefully starts organizing the D-1 and D-2 teams more clearly as well. Organization would give some more legitimacy, communication and support to D-2 teams and all women’s rugby teams. I also think that there are a number of D-2 teams that could/should compete at D-1 and probably a few D-1s that would fare better at D-2. A better system across the board would benefit so many players.

Personally, a few people have told my teammates and I that our team, which has struggled in the past few years, should consider switching divisions to D-2 to better deal with a smaller roster in a smaller city (Madison is 218,000 (2003) compared to the Twin Cities area – 2, 000,000 – and Chicago – 2, 800,000 – where our league counterparts reside). It’s something we have discussed, but in the end our team has a long history of being D-1 and it’s something we are used to being and want to continue to be a part of. I think it’s really up to the team and what works best for your team.

What does everybody else think?

Image: Colorado.edu

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HOGs Blog

The Denver Harlequin Olde Girls have a blog for their team, in shades of pink of course. I’ll throw it on the sidebar.

Thanks for the link HOGs and good luck this spring.

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Midwest D-I Women’s Schedule

Our team just got this from Meredith Horn, the Midwest D-I Women’s coordinator. Our schedule for our upcoming fall league season. Meredith had Kathy Flores and Candi Orsini help her draw the matchs randomly while watching the Philly/Chicago challenge match.

Had I known this, I would have tried to sway some of the selections with free ice cream from the ice cream dude down in Chicago. 馃檪 Foiled!!

Week 1: September 9, 2006
Chicago at Amazons
Valkyries at Wisconsin Women
Bye: Northshore

Week 2: September 16, 2006
Northshore at Chicago
Wisconsin Women at Amazons
Bye: Valkyries

Week 3: September 23, 2006
Amazons at Valkyries
Wisconsin Women at Northshore
Bye: Chicago

Week 4: September 30, 2006
Chicago at Wisconsin Women
Northshore at Valkyries
Bye: Amazons

Week 5: October 7, 2006
Amazons at Northshore
Valkyries at Chicago
Bye: Wisconsin Women

Week 6: October 14-15, 2006
Midwest D-I Territorial Tournament
Location TBA

Some of my teammates seem concerned we’re playing the Valkyries right away. I say Bring it on. Always better to get a tough team first, so you can keep playing at a higher level through the rest of the fall. Our team has struggled in the past few years, so we want a chance at the Territorial Tournament and it will be good for us to start hard I think. Plus we have lots of friends on the Valks, so it’s all good.

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Tsunami & Mountains in Montana

Last night when I was falling asleep, I had the television on and flipped to a show on the Discovery channel about the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean. It featured a collection of real video footage that people had shot that day and then interviews with survivors.

It was pretty hard to watch, but I couldn’t fall asleep while watching it. I had forgotten that there had actually been two waves. The first wave came in and surprised people and caused some bad damage, then left so people got up and were walking around. But then the second wave came and destroyed everything. In some areas, it was up to 30 feet tall. Thirty feet. What would you do if you saw a wave of water rushing at you that was over three stories tall?

For me the most interesting part of this show was an interview with a tribesman on a remote island in the middle of the Indian Oceans. I believe it was the Andomar Islands. Researchers who had studied this remote tribe had feared that the entire population of people would have been destroyed by the Tsunami, but surprisingly no one was hurt. The tribesman being interviewed said it was because they had remembered what their ancestors had told them and that you need to listen to nature.

He described how their people believe that the Earth was held up by a large tree. Good and bad spirits lived around the tree and were always fighting for control of the earth, its land, water and people. The bad spirits would shake the tree to throw off the earth’s balance, which is what caused earthquakes. And the since nature always needed to be in balance, like the good and bad spirits, the shaking of the tree would make the land and the water fight. And that this was perfectly natural to fight until a new balance was found. So when the earth shook and the water rushed away from the island so that more land could be seen (pre-tsunami), the tribespeople knew that the land was winning the fight, but that the ocean would soon come rushing back to gain balance. So the people knew they needed to run as far into the forest as possible away from the water. And this is why they had all survived. They had listened to what nature was telling them and knew in the end, balance would be found.

It’s just one of those reminders that everything shakes out in the end. Everything in supposed to be in moderation, in balance with everything else. Even in nature. Even in events much bigger than us. And we have to pay attention to it.

I also got a phone call last night from my friend Tim who’s in Montana with our men’s team for Maggotfest in Missoula. They had to fly there yesterday and Missoula is down in a valley in between mountains still covered in snow. But the weather is nice. Last night, our guys played Missoula’s men’s team and lost. Struggles with defense Tim said, against a team that supported each other well. But today the guy’s get to go whitewater rafting, which sounds infinitely more awesome than sitting in a cubicle on my computer.

But that is okay. Days like this make days where you go whitewater rafting in the mountains of Montana that much more breathtaking. Balance, I tell you. Balance.

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Utility Player

I’ll be playing scrumhalf tomorrow, just found out last night. So to recap, in the past three months I have played: Lock, Flanker, Outside Center, Inside Center and Scrumhalf.

This does not include the random games in which I have played fullback, wing, flyhalf, no. 8 and prop (10s & 7s) throughout my almost 11 years of playing rugby.

I would say I could be classified by the definitions below. However, hopefully not as the very last one.

u路til路i路ty
n. pl. u路til路i路ties
1. The quality or condition of being useful; usefulness: 鈥淚 have always doubted the utility of these conferences on disarmament鈥 (Winston S. Churchill).
2. A useful article or device.
3. a. A public utility.
3. b. A commodity or service, such as electricity, water, or public transportation, that is provided by a public utility.
4. Computer Science. A utility program.

adj.
1. Used, serving, or working in several capacities as needed, especially:
a. Prepared to play any of the smaller theatrical roles on short notice: a utility cast member.
b. Capable of playing as a substitute in any of several positions: a utility infielder.
2. Designed for various often heavy-duty practical uses: a utility knife; a utility vehicle.
3. Raised or kept for the production of a farm product rather than for show or as pets: utility livestock.
4. Of the lowest U.S. Government grade: utility beef.

So this really raises the question, is it better to be good at everything or be really excellent at a few things or maybe just one thing? I don’t know.

Everyone please keep me in your thoughts as I try to remember that scrumhalves don’t ruck & maul all the time … *sigh* … and rucking’s my favorite part.

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My Own Thoughts on Women Supposedly Shunning Scrums

What do you think of this article and why?

See my earlier post here.

Further thoughts on this, I understand why, when asked about our sport, people who are non-ruggers see only the contact, the injuries and the physicality of it.

We have to face facts, we don’t play a mainstream sport in the United States (think American Football). And we do play a physical sport that you can get injured doing. Just like lots of other sports. This would be especially “in your face” so to speak, when it is an interview about women’s rugby. We live in a culture that women, no matter how modern, open-minded, and athletic we are, women are still seen as being smaller, less physical, more likely to need protection, feminine, whatever. We’re women. We’re female. We know this. No point in trying to swim against the current. Sometimes it’s just reality. I know that I shouldn’t be alone in a dark alley in a bad neighborhood at night. I just know in a bad-for-me situation, I really am just 5-7, 140 pounds of me. I know this. I don’t like it, but I know it.

Various stereotypes of tomboys, butches, man-hating lesbians, Title IX feminazis, etc., all play into this. Some of us fit those labels (and self-label), some of us don’t. We can talk about our openness and tolerance later.

But I also think we can’t always complain about the way we are seen, when we help others see ourselves in certain light.

For instance, how many of us have “Give Blood. Play Rugby” stickers on our cars or t-shirts? How many of us recap our games to our friends and families with an account of the score, then an injury rundown? How many of us just smile when our bone doctor now knows us by name due to two broken fingers in the past 7 months? Okay, that last one is just me, but you know where I’m going.

So, I’m down with not liking our portrayal, but from a communication standpoint, we need to do a better job of sending the right messages. Yes, rugby is a full-contact sport, but it’s also so much more. Don’t focus on the hits, when you can focus on the speed, the agility, the mental athleticism it takes to keep pace with a game that is always evolving as you move down the field.

Case in point – a new big muscular dude just joined our men’s team and played his first game. This guy could bench-press a buick and did lay out some opponents in tackles, but he could only play for 20 minutes because he was strong, but he wasn’t athletic. He was all muscle – no finesse, no speed and no endurance.

When people ask me about the game and the contact, I say yes, but I tell them it’s a very endurance-based sport. You need to be in shape, you need to be an all-around athlete. A typical lineman on a football team won’t make it through 1/4 of a rugby game. But a little gymnast or a ballerina probably could.

So, remember that when you are selling our sport. We are so much more than rugby brutes and chicks that enjoy injuries. And we’re especially so much more than beer-swilling idiots too. When someone interviews you about rugby, send the positive messages and stay on message. If they are just focusing on injuries and crazy women, steer them back to your message. Remember, they are looking for sound-bites and quick quotes, so give them ones that you want to see the next day.

Why do you play rugby?

I play rugby because it makes me feel good about myself. On a rugby field and within a rugby team, I am smart, funny, loved, athletic, powerful (I can move a ruck!), part of something bigger than me. I am more than the sum of my parts. Asking me why I play rugby is like asking the sun why it shines. It’s who I am. It’s what I do. Even when I am old and gray, I will still have rugby and all of the wonderful people who love it just like me.

If you played in college, why did you or didn’t you play after college? And if you took a break in-between, why did you do that?

I actually did take a break for three years, suprisingly. I played in a tournament here and there, but was not part of a team. But I was also pretty lost and didn’t know what to do with my life, work, school, etc. I returned home from traveling abroad, had bills to pay, had to get a job, went to grad school, then got a better, real job that I worked 50-65 hours a week. I finally returned to active rugby when I realized that I didn’t have any friends that were not work-related or someone else’s friends that I knew through someone else. I had no social network and had a big hole to fill. So I came home, I guess. And I always thought of myself as a rugby player, I just wasn’t playing.

I think a lot of people go through this. Life gets in the way. You need to figure out who you are. It’s normal.

What can senior teams do to attract more college players?

This one is really important to me, since I am on a senior team that needs to do this very much. Senior teams need to remember that college is its own world, its own bubble of existence. Unless you actively seek out interaction with collegiate players, they will not even know you exist. Well, very few anyway.

They will also probably think you are old, mean and clueless about how to have a good time. Senior teams and players need to build awareness of their teams through active and constant communication, support, and resources.

Make the college players in your area and your state know that you exist, that you are interested in how their team is doing, willing to help them if they need it, whether it’s just information (maybe explaining how to obtain a referee, how to work with the union, etc.), helping with fundraisers, coaching, or just showing up on their sidelines. And invite them to your events, even if they don’t come, keep inviting them until one comes, then it will grow. Positive word-of-mouth is very important. You probably scare the crap out of them, so be nice, enthusiastic and interested.

And do this all for more than getting a recruit or two, do it for the good of rugby. I can guarantee that most of the college players in your area won’t probably stay in your area after school. They need jobs, and unless you can help them find one, they are going home or moving. But, a few might stay. And this works the same way all over, so if your team is known as the cool senior team that loves new players, you can also guarantee that players moving into your area may have heard of you.

So, yeah, basically, senior teams can sit and be stagnant and wonder why, or we can do something about it. And we can do this in a positive way that helps promote our team and our sport. To quote the voice in “Field of Dreams”, If you build it, they will come.

Other thoughts? I am starving and I have a doctor’s appointment checkup. Be back later, y’all.

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