Their jovial voices overshadowed the chest thumping of the boys. Some of their faces tensed at the sight of my pencil and notebook. They asked if I was with the Daily Tar Heel, the campus newspaper. Dressed in my Adidas exercise pants and shirt, I confused them. My face was unfamiliar to the rest of the women, but I looked as if I could have been joining them. I was an outsider who could become an insider. However, as long as there were no cleats on my feet, there was a certain dialogue I could not touch. The president of the club, Teagan, was the only person who knew I was coming.
With a short haircut and highlighter shirt, she stood out from the more timid faces. Only a few personalities “ran” the group. Hers was one of them. She welcomed me to “do whatever I needed. ” Malia, a returning player, was one of the first players to ask about my study. Again, I had to answer-I was not there to play, only to watch. Slight bouts of concern crossed her face. The team was a family. You did not cross a family. After the water break, the team gathered in a huddle. The coach outlined the objectives for the night, ending with a “1, 2, 3, Pride. that shook the trees.
Part of the team started with “rucking”, the word to describe tackling in rugby. The “rucking” team was divided into four stations. At each station, one team member put on a protective vest, a cross between the pads worn by football players and that worn by baseball catchers. The other members formed a line in front of her. The player with the vest was in charge of tackling the other women. Mel was in this group, eagerly putting on the protection vest. Even though I knew the pad would soften the blow, when Mel tackled the first woman, I cringed.
The History of Collegiate Rugby According to legend, rugby was bred out of rebellion when in 1823, the supposed founder William Webb Ellis decided to go against the rules of soccer, running with the ball in his arms. Rugby, or the “Rugby Union” came to the United States around the 1850s with the first recorded game occurring in 1874 at Harvard University. [i] By 1880, American universities were beginning to deviate towards what would become modern-day American football. From 1880 to 2001, rugby’s popularity in the United States has fluctuated.
However, since the 2000s, Rugby has featured a surge of participation, especially on college campuses. Forbes Magazine has named it as the fastest growing sport, citing that more schools are offering the program instead of football because of its “… low cost and high participation rates… ” [ii] The Game To a novice player, rugby is reminiscent of football and soccer. There is no line of scrimmage and little protection from hits. The game requires constant running. The only break comes at the start of a play. Passes are thrown to the side instead of forward. Rugby’s violence is offset by exemplary sportsmanship.
Sportsmanship provides a way to display humanity, reaffirming that the players can still be “people” and “civilized” while participating in a barbaric game. For example, players are expected to refer to referees as “sir. ” The “rules” of the game are called “laws” instead of “rules. ” For tackling, players rely on judo-type takedowns, hooking their arms around each other’s backs, and grinding their feet into the grass. If the girls grab each other’s clothes, the ball goes to the other team. The best tackler, or “rucker” on the field was a combination of a battering ram and a martial arts expert.
To improve rucking skills, players participated in a scrum. In a scrum, players gathered in two lines, facing each other. With their arms linked to each other’s shoulders, the two lines would engage in a body-styled push of war, “team bonding” according to some of the older players. New Players’ Camp The girls began by throwing a football-shaped ball to each other in a circle. After the warmup, the girls gathered to introduce the coaches. All of the coaches were former players, having worked as coaches on the team for over five years. After introducing themselves, the team ran a lap around the field.
After the lap, the players gathered in a line on a side of the field perpendicular to where they started, executing a series of warmups reminiscent of the beginning of a Physical Education class. In one of the drills, returning players demonstrated “rucking. ” Excitedly digging into the ground, the coach described the rules of “rucking. ” He explained that one must have a mindset of “Driving the girl to the ground. Laying on top of her. Then, running over her to the next opponent. ” A good Rugby player follows an “On to the Next One” mentality.
1. Keep your head up. A player’s targets are mobile. . Stay low. A player’s power comes from her lower body. 3. Don’t be scared. When a player does not attempt to tackle the other with their maximum strength, their opponent will overpower her. While the two players laid on the ground, one on top of the other, they patted each other on the back, causing a few giggles from the new players. Most new players commented: Rucking would be their favorite part of the game. The Same Answers The sense of a close-knit family was consistent with all of the interviewed players. The status of individual teammates set rugby apart from other sports.
Whereas other sports seem, even team sports, revolve around a few key players, rugby was more a community of players with accountability falling on the team for every win or loss. “The play was on the ball” instead of the player. The diversity of the team also drew many of the players to the game. Much in the same way it is now, there were people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ideologies. Being able to mentally and physically bring oneself to the limit was what really brought the players closer together. [iii] The connection came from “knowing the pain and dedication put into the game” and then seeing it manifested physically. [iv]
The women said the biggest roadblock was usually just breaking the new players out of the feminine roles they think they are supposed to fill. [v] Learning to “ruck” was often about more than just learning to hit something. It was about confronting one’s aggression, seeing it manifest, and being okay with its manifestation. Breaking into that mindset was the hardest hurdle to jump. The Unacknowledged Quest to be Uncivilized From a sociological perspective, minorities are defined as a group singled out for maltreatment because of physical or cultural characteristics.
From this perspective, even though there is a greater population of females, society considers females as a minority. Compared to males, they often receive less privileges, and endure worse treatment. For example, in the time of the Roman Empire, women were expected to remain quiet on “hard” issues such as politics, and to barely comment on subjects outside of that realm. Until the most recent centuries, society preached female inaction through the duty of being the submissive wife or the obedient woman who “stands behind her man. ” Female action was discouraged outside of household duties.
Rugby reverses the “civilized” nature force-fed to women. Women are encouraged to run, throw, and tackle the same way the men do. This trait makes rugby a sport of feminism by two definitions: the advocacy of equal rights for men and women and the organized activity on behalf of women’s rights. [vi] By demonstrating that women are as capable as violence as men in a socially acceptable environment, rugby demands the need for female respect, connecting to an ingrained mental frame-If a woman does the same work as a man with the same intensity and quality, is she really inferior?
The communal aspect of Rugby adds a separate paradigm, showing that players can not only be violent on an individual level, but they can also work together to use that violence towards a unified goal. Unlike a solitary sport such as boxing, rugby requires communal calculation to realize its volatile potential. Humans naturally reject the constraints put on them in the same way a pet may want to reject a leash being put around its neck. This desire is made manifest in the sport of rugby. Women’s rugby releases two leashes-the leash of being feminine and the leash of being proper. ”
By expressing their “masculine”, “animalistic” side, rugby allows its female players to experience freedom that would otherwise never be experienced. It is this freedom that the women bond over. The freedom to be as destructive, animalistic, and as capable of violence as the men. The past American Revolution followed the same script, being not about taxes, but about the freedom to govern themselves, the desire for more control over their personal lives. The current revolution in female rights concerning the censorship of their bodies follows the same script.
It is not about showing their bodies, but being free to do so. Repressing the human desire for freedom is like boiling water in a teapot. Eventually, the water spills. History gives an example in the Salem Witch Trials when Puritan values suffocated the need for free expression, and the only mode of release was the false accusation of witches. John Locke stated that human nature features an intrinsic need for laws. Human nature may need laws, but the need stems from an even greater need to break them. Repression of that nature, of violence, preempts societal suicide.