A letter and an article I found in my web wanderings that I wanted to share …
First, a piece by a Bath women’s rugby player in the UK …
Preconceptions couldn’t be further from the truth
13 June 2007, 2:42 pm
By Vicky Heslop
I am often asked, “What is the difference between women’s rugby and men’s rugby?” and my answer is always the same – women’s rugby is simply rugby, played by women.
Aside from that, there is no difference – the rules are exactly the same.
We scrummage, make hard tackles, contest every ball and play to the limit of the rules, just like the boys.
Admittedly, the speed of the game and therefore the collisions involved are less intense at some levels, but the passion and aggression of the game is no different.
Another obstacle female players come up against is the preconception that people have about them.
Just as in the men’s game, our team is made up of all different shapes and sizes, and there is a crucial role on the pitch for everyone.
It sometimes seems that people expect us to be great lumbering, unfeminine brutes, so their reaction when they meet our team is often one of surprise (a pleasant surprise, I like to think).
Some people who meet us off the pitch even refuse to believe that we play rugby.
One only has to look as far as the successful calendar that Bath Rugby Ladies created for 2007 to see how wrong these preconceptions can be.
There was no need to resort to taking our clothes off to generate interest in the team, people were enthusiastic enough about the pictures with our clothes on!
But just because we are feminine, does not mean we are weak. Nothing of the sort.
In fact, Bath Ladies have had their most successful season so far, beating some very strong competition to win the South West 1 league title.
What’s more, seven members of the team have represented their country at an international level this season, with two more representing the south west.
Our rugby speaks for itself as we continue to gain growing support from people who already support the men.
Despite having so many outstanding players, the team is bound by a unity and common respect that goes way beyond the rugby pitch (I call it ‘feeling the love’).
Every single member of the squad genuinely respects everyone else for what they can bring to the team, whether it be their strength in the scrum, their speed down the wing, that crucial crunching tackle or the ball seeming to stick to their hands like glue.
In a world of professional sports teams full of overpaid superstars, it is something special to be part of a team who play for each other and for the sheer joy of being on the pitch.
This strength of team spirit and unity was inspired by the philosophy that made the Bath men’s team of the 80s and 90s so unstoppable.
We feel lucky to receive a large amount of respect and support from our male counterparts and others at the club, and I hope that this relationship can be a model for others in the game, so that women can continue to be treated as equals, and not as outsiders in a man’s world.
And then this article by a former men’s rugby player in Minnesota …
Something about rugby that makes it rise to the top
6/6/2007 9:00:51 AM
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. — Sod flew and bodies collided as rugby players tackled an opponent who dropped the ball, leading to a wild ruck where St. John’s and Banshee players pushed, sweated and grunted to get the ball free to another back.
When the ball was heeled out, another back picked it up and began running, continuing a fast-paced, well-played game celebrating 40 years of rugby at St. John’s University in Collegeville.
Watching the game last weekend at the Johnny pitch were several of us, players from the first years of SJU rugby.
“We did that?” I said to Mike Minks who was a forward with me. We ran like that, got hit, hit, jumped, played hard and made the dirt fly?
Yup, we did that, he said.
And we did it with gusto in our days in the early 1970s.
But as several of us from those first years talked before the game, it was not only about those great old days but also the new times of the need for shoulder surgery, an artificial knee, bad backs, and one or two already being grandfathers. We were the fathers of rugby, some of the first ruggers in the state, and we were getting older. Our glory days are long past but no one can ever ever take away the times we had on the pitch.
Forever we can say “We were ruggers.”
All of us played other competitive sports but there’s something about rugby that makes it rise to the top. I’ve played six sports in all but am most proud of being in the second row of the Johnny scrum. My job was to push in the scrum and jump in lineouts, getting the ball to the faster backs. I was a role player with no great size or speed but I did my job and we won a lot more games than we lost.
I never heard of rugby before enrolling at St. John’s. A classmate, Dick Howard, introduced it to me. He was scrum-half, one of the most dangerous jobs on the pitch, and he bled more than once.
I tried rugby and was mystified at its rules, especially offsides rules that are positively Byzantine until you learn them. Because I could jump, I was made a forward, about 30 pounds too light but I never knew that so I kept on playing there.
The game was intriguing, I loved the fast pace. Unlike American football, which is the son of rugby, there are no first downs in union rugby, very little padding, no specialty players who only go in for third and long or just for kickoffs. It was 15 players on the pitch; it you were injured you had two minutes to get up or get off the field. If you left, your team played a man short until you could come back.
The best games were the fast ones, without a lot of scrums and lineouts, just passing, hitting, running, short kicks, playing for position. You forgot everything, you just thought about where to go, who to hit or not hit.
Yes, I got walloped more than once and have a sore lower back because of a my mistake. It’s part of the game, it wouldn’t be rugby without the physical contact.
Rugby, however, is only a contact game while footbll is a collision sport. Because the game has the potential to be so rough, you learned to back off. You knew you could really smash someone but you also knew that if you did, the other team might make sure you got hit extra hard. It was rugby detente.
Besides, the guy you walloped on the pitch was also the guy you were going to meet after the game either sitting around to talk or at a party.
I remembered a lot of that as I watched St. John’s play the Banshees a week ago, standing around with teammates, and was happy I took part. Though my shoulders and back are bad, I still felt the call to the pitch, to play in the alumni game. It was a call I knew I could never again answer but it was still so strong, I wanted to be able to run, hit, jump, push, feel the sweat and pride of being a rugger.
When it was over, we stood around and talked more and at the dinner that evening, shared more memories. Five of us who played together split up after that. I may never see them again but this I know: for three glorious springs in 1970-72, I played with them and I can always say “I was a rugger.”
You just read these and go “Yeah …“