The critical component to any long-term success for any program or nation is Youth Rugby. To that end we, along with our Rugby Savants known as the RRMC (Rugby Rain Man Collective) and the RWU Rugby Mum (Mumscrum), are dedicating more coverage to the YRS (Youth Rugby Scene)… by having teams report in…
BOCA RATON, FLORIDA – Thanks to Carrie Dowling, this week’s report comes to us once again from the Sunshine State of Florida…
As the Vice President for Youth for the Florida Youth Rugby Union, I have received many interesting emails and phone calls from people all over the state and the country. But one recent call in particular struck me as a bit more complex. I received an email recently from a high school girl in Coconut Creek, Florida. The story she told me had me re-evaluating girls rugby and rugby development.
I learned she found out about girls rugby and wanted to play. She and two of her friends talked to a teacher who is a player on the local men’s team. He told them if they could recruit a bunch more girls, he would coach them. So they did. They really did. The three core girls went and recruited 27 more girls interested in trying contact rugby. She asked me what they needed to do to start a team. Emails flew back and forth with me telling her about how to CIPP register on USAR, our “Union Jerseys” for new teams to use, our affiliation with World Rugby Shop and their new team kit they would send to her school for free, etc…
That is when I received the final email. The teacher told her that if he coached them, he would not be able to play rugby himself anymore. He was sorry, but it was just not going to happen. As a Union, we reached out to the clubs in the area and tried to encourage a qualified person in the area to donate their time to the girls. But we had no luck. I realized there is too much emphasis and burden put on the “old boys” helping out. There is a limit to the number of hours in a day and a huge commitment to coach a team will intrude even more deeply into a person’s life.
My heart broke for the girls. I knew how much work they put into forming a team. It just happened that I was failing at recruiting any local girls at all onto my new team about a 35-minute drive northeast of them in Boca Raton. I extended an offer for the girls to commute to Boca. It was not the best case for most girls and we only got the three core girls to make the rush hour drive. In January, I canceled the program altogether because we couldn’t recruit more than the first three. Our original coach received an offer to work with a women’s team and decided to make the move. The very next practice, there were 7 girls! Our U12 boys coach and trainer stepped up to help coach, splitting their time. (We are now up to 11 who are consistently showing up to practices.)
I was worried about them being able to keep up with the other established teams in the state. I spoke on the phone with one of the coaches and he was very encouraging to me to believe in the girls and play his B-side girls who were in the same situation. A friendly match would benefit all of the new players. So I talked to the girls and told them, we had a match!
The match was at a large local tournament in Broward County called Ruggerfest on the 22nd of February. I put the girls in the tiny jerseys I use for my U10, U12, and U14 players. They were getting nervous before the match was about to start.
I have never played competitive rugby, so I didn’t have any words of wisdom for them. But as the kick-off got closer, they were beginning to grab each other’s arms and shake them saying they were nervous and scared. I decided they needed to know how important this moment was and how unimportant it was if they won or lost. I have done a lot of nerve-racking things in my life and learned most of the time I just needed to brazen my way through it.
So I put on my leadership face and brought them over to me on the field. I didn’t plan anything ahead of time. But I just knew they needed to know how proud of them I was and what was in my heart. I said:
“There has been a rugby program in Boca Raton for 37 years for men. There has been a rugby program in Boca Raton for 2 years for boys. There has never been a women’s team or a girl’s team. The fact that you are out here today is historic. This is the first time the Lady Buccaneers have ever taken the field. Everything you do here will be the first time it has ever been done. Everything will be historic! Who will get the first tackle?”
The girls surprised me and they shouted, “We will!”
I raised my voice and asked, “Who will form the first ruck!”
They answered again, “We will!”
Now, at full volume, I asked, “WHO WILL MAKE THE FIRST TRY?”
They answered again, “WE WILL!”
I stood back and took a deep breath looking at their faces. They were fired up! They were ready. I was so proud of them at that moment. I knew they understood that nothing else mattered. They showed up. It was a win for girls rugby!
I gave my best look of satisfaction to all of the girls. I nodded my head once and said “That’s right!” I walked away and the coach walked up to give them their final instructions.
They took the field and played like a bunch of beginners. They made their first tackles. They got tackled. They passed the ball forward and knocked-it-on. They rucked and scrummed. They even scored 5 tries! The best part of the entire game was right after the final whistle. The girls from the other teams made a tunnel for our girls to run through. Our girls ran through and then started to hug each other. The other team told them to make a tunnel for them now. They did, and when everyone was through, they hugged our girls and congratulated them on their first match. It reminded me why rugby was so different than all of the other sports out there.
We mixed some of the A-side players onto our teams for the next friendly. The more experienced players would pass the ball as quickly as possible to a new player to give her a chance to run or score. It was positively the most encouraging and best game of rugby I have ever had the pleasure to watch. I laughed and I cheered. I gave ice bags to the girls for their bumps and their bruises. They can’t wait for their next match!
Boca Bucs Girls HS Rugby Game 1
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