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.