Rugby grows in popularity across America
Women’s rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in America when it comes to playing and attendance. Rugby is on the rise nationally and here at Coastal Carolina University as a club sport.
According to The National Small College Rugby Organization, the game of rugby was invented in 1823 in London by William Webb Ellis. Women’s rugby teams were unheard of until 1884 in Ireland. Women were documented playing rugby throughout the UK up until the second World War when women were inspired to challenge the roles which were formerly reserved for men. The game made its way to Canada and the U.S. in the early 70’s. The first Women’s U.S. National Championship was Sept. 1978 in Chicago, IL. Since the 1990’s, women’s rugby has gained popularity around the globe.
At CCU, women’s rugby is offered as a club sport, meaning the team competes with other universities, but is not regulated by the NCAA.
University of Maryland Women’s Rugby shares the standard structure of women’s rugby. These teams are composed of 23 players in total with 15 players on the field during each match. Players compete as either forwards or backs. Forwards defend the territory and any scrums, which are the restarts of plays. Backs are the primary scorers and oversee advancing the ball while in possession.
There are 15 different positions of play: Front Row-Mains oversee winning scrums. Second Row-Locks primarily defend and charge on offense. Loose forwards or “Loosies” support backs and take position at the back of scrums, preparing to gain possession of loose balls. Half Backs distribute the ball on the offense and are the main scorers. Midfield-Sets up the wingers to score. Inside Backs perform a lot of defensive work for the backs and gets the ball out to score. Five Eights work on both offense and defense. Three Quarters are right winger’s and left winger’s who sit on the blindside or short side of the field waiting for an opportunity to score the ball. Back three make up the last line of defense, hanging back to cover opponents’ kicks. Outside Backs typically sets up the wingers.
Jerrica Nesmith, who competes in the front row as a Tighthead Prop, has played on CCU’s team for a semester and a half.
“I had no idea that it was [one of America’s fastest growing sports]. Truth be told, I didn’t know anything about rugby before I started playing,” Nesmith said.
Even though Nesmith didn’t know about the rise in rugby, she has noticed many women attending matches to see about joining the team.
“With a growing crowd, participation is automatically increasing. We’re always doing fun, hands on activities and drills that makes [sic] us better players,” Nesmith said.
A ten-year study led by USA Rugby measuring the participants in America ending in 2016 concluded that the amount of rugby players increased more than a million. As of 2016, there were more than 900 colleges that offered rugby as a club sport.
“I can’t tell you for sure why rugby is growing so fast. However, I believe that people are looking for more diverse ways to be active and get in shape by doing something fun and sporty,” Nesmith said.
Adreinne Higgins, who has been playing for CCU for a year, said, “I think it gives girls a space to work out and get connected with all different types of people. I also think it’s great for women that used to play sports to be a part of a team again.”
Higgins also was not aware of the recent popularization of rugby in America, but she has noticed it here at CCU.
“Now that I’ve been playing, I have noticed a lot more people wanting to know about the sport and come out to practices. We had a huge number of girls sign up to get information,” Higgins said.
For any woman looking to get involved in athletics and make friends, both athletes said being on the team feels like a family.
“My favorite part of playing rugby is bonding with my teammates. They’re family now,” Nesmith said.
There are many different sports offered at CCU for anyone looking to find a way to be active and more involved.