Anyone who knows me or has read my blog knows that rugby has been a huge, important part of my college life. Through the ups and downs, the wins and the losses, and the countless injuries, I have remained tangled in my love affair with this beautiful mess of a sport. I decided to tell that story.
Fall Season: 2014
During my first week of classes, the school had set up an activity fair where many of the clubs the school offered had booths set up where students could get information on different ones. One of these booths was rugby. I had done a project in high school on the infamous New Zealand All Blacks, and had watched a few games on TV. I found the sport intriguing. The two girls sitting at the booth convinced me to go to the practice they were having that night. I debated for hours, and in the end- ten minutes before it started- I decided to go. All it took was one day for me to be hooked on the sport. I kept going to practices, made friends with the team, and even discovered I had a talent for the sport. The first game of the season was one of the most intense, fulfilling, exhilarating, and terrifying experiences of my life. I realized then that I had fallen in love with the game.
*Our first game of the season and my first game ever. My first team!
I started spending more time with my new teammates. One of them invited me over to cook and eat dinner, and we began hanging out on a regular soon after. I infiltrated her group of friends, and spent more time at her apartment than my own dorm most days. I started to create a bond with many of the girls that went far deeper than teammates. These girls helped me build my self-confidence and inner strength. They helped me to unlock talents I didn’t know I had. They gave me a sense of belonging. They showed me how to play the game. They gave me a second family. They gave me something to look forward to week after week, and I was always happiest when I was on the field with them.
*A team picture where none of us managed to look normal. Still an adorable picture of our adorable team.
Spring Season: 2015
Before the season even started, I was reunited with my girls for the event of the season; a rugby wedding. Our rugby mom- one of the kindest, sweetest, most compassionate people I’ve ever met- was getting married. I danced the night away with some of my favorite people as we celebrated her wedding. Mama, as we call her, is still one of my biggest role models. I go to her now and again for advice, and she is still filled with more love than anyone else I know.
Unfortunately, a few practices into the season, I made the very hard decision to take the season off. My life had so much going on, and more piling up, I needed to take some time for myself. The girls were beyond understanding, and told me I was welcome back anytime. Still, walking away was one of the hardest choices I had made at the time.
Fall Season: 2015
Sophomore year had come, and I was ready to dive head first back into rugby. I know lived with the teammate who had invited me over for dinner the year before, and she had grown to be one of the best friends I ever had. Here we were, ready to start another season.
*The roomie and me ready to play our first home game of the season!
We had some new faces to add to the familiar ones, and I found myself in a new place. No longer new, I was able to help this new group of girls learn to play while I continued to learn myself. Determined to re-earn my place on the team, I worked hard to prove to the girls- old and new- that I was an asset to the team. Many times, this was easier said than done, but I never gave up. I tried new positions, become more familiar with my strengths and weaknesses on the field, and worked to help other girls who were filled with self-doubt. Some days were really hard, and my anxiety threw me threw a loop, but I always recovered. I always kept trying to get better.
*Our float for the homecoming parade. A fun filled day of rugby.
This season was unlike any other, I began seeing how the sport was shaping me. I was more confident in myself than before, and found a deep sense of pride whenever I talked about rugby. All I wanted to do was talk about rugby, because it was something exciting that set me apart from the crowd. I wanted everyone to know about the sport, and encouraged anyone who would listen to join. None of this prepared me for the season to come.
Spring Season: 2016
In many ways, this was the hardest season I had. My anxiety was at its worst, and it was affecting the way I played. We had morning practices with the men’s team, which more often than not left me feeling drained and depressed. Almost every day, I felt that I wasn’t enough for the team, no matter how hard I tried to show them all I was. I refused to quit again, but the season took its toll on me.
The first game of the season, disaster struck. It was sleeting and raining, and my car slid into the ditch. It seemed to be the millionth thing that had gone wrong that week, and I was ashamed for putting my friends in danger. Everyone was okay, including the car, thankfully, but that did little to assuage the whirlwind of emotions welling inside me. After pulling over to point and laugh, the men’s team continued on. Shortly after, the remainder of the women’s team followed. Three of them waited with me for a tow truck. We were freezing and soaked, and I was so upset, I couldn’t think straight. When we finally arrived at the tournament, we had missed the first game and the team wasn’t talking to us. It was as if I had gone into the ditch on purpose, and they treated us like we had done something wrong. We felt like we were being punished. I was so hurt by this, I almost walked away from it all. But I played on. I had three great games; some of the best games I’d ever had, and by the time we left, everything seemed to be back normal. The girls were all speaking to me again, and we all laughed together. I wanted to put the whole thing behind me, but it still nagged at the back of my mind from time to time. Still, the day turned out to be one I still look back on fondly.
*The first tournament of the spring season. Some of the best games we ever played.
The season went on, and got better as it progressed. I had some of my best game moments that season, and began to feel more comfortable on the team as I fell deeply into my role. We had some great games, and even hosted a tournament in the snow. We spent the morning shoveling off the field in the cold morning, and rolled around in the snow as the ball slipped from our grip time and time again. We laughed with the other teams, and had a blast rolling around in the March snow.
*Shoveling the snow on a cold, March morning. As cold as we were, we all had a ton of fun doing this! One of my favorite rugby days.
In the beginning of April, we traveled four hours to Wayne, Nebraska for the biggest event of the spring season. The giant rugby tournament in which ruggers from all over the Midwest joined together to play several intense games of rugby, before coming together for one giant toga party. I almost didn’t go, I had gotten into another car accident- this one a little more scary- and was terrified. After talking it over extensively with several teammates, I decided to go, and I am so glad I did. I had a lot of fun with my girls, especially my close friends that happened to also be teammates. We had a lot of laughs and memories that will last me a lifetime. It was a great way to end the season.*Surviving the bitter winds of Wayne.
*The last game of the season, and my last time taking the field with some of these girls. I still miss them all dearly over a year later.
Fall Season: 2016
Although I missed those who had graduated furiously, this season is my absolute favorite. Only three of us remained, but we had a whole set of new girls. These girls became my world, and we played some of the best games I had ever been a part of. The love and passion in these girls was unlike anything I had ever seen. They played their hearts out every game, and never ceased to amaze me.
*First game of the season, and most of these girls’ first game ever. Truly a day worth remembering.
These girls weren’t just players; they were warriors. When they stepped onto that field, they didn’t leave until everything they had was left there. I had more fun this season than any of the past ones, and made some of the best memories I have in this life. I could go on for pages about these girls; how they made me smile and laugh, how they played phenomenally, and how deeply I love them, but there’s a whole other post for that. These girls weren’t just my friends and teammates- they were my family. They played beautifully, and made me proud every game and every practice. They still mean the world to me. Words cannot express how much this season and this team meant to me.
*Last game of the season, and tied for my favorite game ever (the other being the game we played the week before).
Spring Season: 2017
This season was another one that made the books as one of my favorites. Sadly, we lost a few faces, but we also gained some new ones. Again, these girls continued to amaze me, especially our newest assets. Watching this team blossom and grow was one of the best experiences from my college career. Watching them go from strangers, to teammates, to friends, was one of the best experiences I have ever been privy to.
*Team bonding practice with our new team as we prepared to start the Spring Season.
Again, we ventured to Wayne, and again I almost didn’t go. So many things were happening in my personal life, I didn’t know if I could handle the stress I knew would come with the weekend. However, the veterans were vastly outnumbered by the rookies, and the girls needed me to help take care of these new faces. Again, I’m glad I chose to go with, because we had a blast. I wasn’t sure if I could have more fun than the year before, but I did. The girls had a blast. I took care of some rookies, tied more togas than I could count, and fended off drunks, but the weekend was more fun than I thought possible.
While I didn’t get as much playing time with these girls as I would have liked (work will do that to you), it was still an honor to take the field with this stellar group of girls. We made a lot of memories and shared an unbelievable amount of laughs. I cannot wait to see what these girls do with this team in the years to come.
*The surprise baby shower we put together for our expectant coach! Also the last time the team was together for the year.
Six seasons. Three years. Thirty girls. Thousands of memories. This sport has become one of the most important parts of my life, as well as one of my favorites. This small piece does little to show the whole puzzle, but some things simply cannot be put into words. Some of these girls become best friends, some good friends, and some acquaintances. Some will fall out of touch and others will remain a part of my life for a long time. No matter what, I love every single one of these girls with all my heart. Old and new, they are a huge, important part of my life. I would do anything for any of them in a heartbeat. Whether my time spent playing rugby ends here or lasts for one more year, one thing is certain- this will always be one of the best chapters of my life. Thank you all for contributing to this part of my story. I cherish you all far more than you will ever know.