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Act like a lady, play like a beast: my experience playing rugby with UYWRUFC


As a baby-faced 5’4” ginger girl, it often comes as a surprise for some to learn that rugby is a great passion of mine. My interest was piqued around 2003 with the victory of our England (Men’s) team at the Rugby World Cup. Rugby was the bond between my dad and I, particularly through some tough familial problems. Now it is a form of sibling power: among three brothers, I am the sole child to have a love for rugby and, therefore, am my dad’s pride and joy! (He confessed to it once, I promise!) Despite passionately screaming at the TV on a regular basis and belting out ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ in the England match against Australia last December, it was only until last Sunday that I actually tried to play rugby. I have two things to say: I’m still alive and I loved it!

Several friends, as players on the University of York Women’s rugby teams, brought to my attention that UYWRUFC (University of York Women’s Rugby Union Football Club) was having a Give-It-A-Go session on Sunday, 22nd January. It was freezing; it had attempted to snow in the morning and I had gloomy thoughts about tackling on the icy, muddy fields that make up 22 Acres. Sunday is a typical training day for sports teams and I almost wandered towards the men’s rugby team before thankfully avoiding embarrassment and finding the women’s teams at the bottom of 22 Acres.

The team were incredibly welcoming and enthusiastic. Including myself, there were only two newcomers amongst the majority of the women’s first and seconds rugby teams. Whilst this was initially intimidating, all of the girls were encouraging and inclusive from the outset.

We began the session with some running and stretches to warm up on such a cold day. This was then followed with some passing exercises. Split into three groups, we passed the ball around in a small space to get us moving and passing quickly. Whilst initially unsure of how to throw the ball, this exercise gave me the practice I needed without showcasing my inexperience. We quickly moved on to some footwork and defensive exercises which provoked some confusion and ensuing hilarity. Throughout the whole day, I never felt silly because of my inexperience; the team looked after me and made sure that the session was a blast!

Then followed the most intimidating aspect of rugby: tackling. The team’s coach demonstrated the basics of tackling: aim for the waist, hit predominantly with the shoulder, get your head out of the way, and make sure to wrap your arms around your opposing player. Essentially, bear-hug the player with force to the ground! My first tackle was against a surprisingly lightweight “punching” bag. Once I made the decision to get on with it, I launched myself at the bag and surprisingly had a lot of fun as I hit the bag and crashed to the ground to the sound of encouraging applause from the team. Honestly, what a great bunch of gals. Everyone practiced tackling, either with punching bags or against other players in tackle suits, essentially green padded suits. The team offered various tips as I became more comfortable with tackling. For example, squeeze your opponent’s knees to upset their balance and stance which will make them fall to the ground.

We finished the session with a half-hour game of touch-rugby. I was given the position as a centre alongside Alice and Rachel, who helpfully explained my positioning throughout the game. It’s important to keep a flat line in defence. When the team attacks, however, we hold a diagonal line in order to pass the ball backwards easily and to avoid obstructing the opposing team from tackling the player with the ball. Despite having watched rugby for years, I learnt a great deal from playing the game and I respect rugby players even more.

I wholeheartedly recommend giving Women’s Rugby a go to any female university student, whether you want to try a new sport, be part of a team or simply have some fun. It was great to be able to run around outside chasing a ball and playing a game!  If you’d like to learn more about the team or women’s rugby at the University of York, visit www.uywrufc.com.

UYWRUFC holds regular training sessions on Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings.