Women on the Rugby Pitch Babson Thought & Action

Late in the afternoon of a cool autumn day, with the sun almost ready to dip below the nearby trees, Lydia Menendez ’24 sits on the bleachers at Babson’s Harrington Rugby Pitch. She puts on her shoes with imposing and thick spikes. “They give you grip as you play,” Menendez says.

Menendez and her teammates from Babson Women’s Rugby Club gather for their regular Wednesday practice. After warming up with a sprint or two on the field, they huddle around team head coach Dave Meyer. Before they begin training, an exercise filled with jumps and tackles, runs and throws, he gives them a brief refresher. “Goth guards, please,” he said.

Women’s rugby, one of the many club sports played at Babson, has been a part of campus life since its founding in 1996 (its male counterpart, Babson United Rugby Club, was founded in 1979). Rugby may be known as a tough sport, but Meyer maintains that anyone can play. “It doesn’t matter your height, your shape, your athletic ability. You can be a rugby player,” he says. “There are roughs everywhere.”

And, at Babson, they are a small but powerful group.

Laughs and bruises

Rugby is not a typical sport that children grow up in, which is why Babson students often come to the women’s club with no previous experience. “Ninety-five percent of players have never seen a rugby ball before they started playing,” says Meyer. “It’s rare to find someone with rugby experience.”

Many are driven to show up for a first practice, but that first practice may be all they need to fall in love with the game. “I joined the club because a friend of mine pushed me, but it was the boost I needed,” says Tierney Gregory ’23, one of the club’s 11 players.

Babson Women’s Rugby Club, always on the lookout for new members, recently won their conference’s fall championship. (Photo: Mark Manne)

A couple of team friends convinced ’24 Abby Tjie to stop by a practice, even though she didn’t know the basic rules of the game. Tennis and swimming were Tjie’s sports in college and at the high school, but she kept an open mind about this unknown sport. “The idea of ​​rugby, a team sport where I could be part of a community of strong women, was really great for me,” she says.

Two previous team captains signed Allison Warner ’23 to the gym during her very first week as a Babson student. She quickly felt at home in the club. “It’s a great team for girls who were athletic in high school and want to try something new and challenging in college,” Warner says. “I found great friendships, laughs, bruises and an aggression that I didn’t know I had in me.”

Yes, rugby can be fierce and physical, but it’s also a game full of strategy and speed. The action on the court can be smooth, fast and exhilarating. “I love the thrill,” says Gregory. “The adrenaline just before a game is what keeps me playing. It’s like the nerves with the excitement and the love of the sport.

The bonds forged by playing rugby are strong. Rugby is known for its community and camaraderie, not only between teammates but also with opponents. Play against a vicious player, Menendez says, and you might find she’s the sweetest person when the game is over. “Whatever happens on the pitch stays on the pitch,” Menendez says. “It’s never personal.”

A job for everyone

During Wednesday’s practice, the team works on moving the ball upfield and hitting a tackle dummy. Players learn good form, the importance of communication and how to handle scrambling, or ruck as it’s called in rugby, for a loose ball. “I want you to hit that ruck hard,” advises Meyer.

By the time the practice is over, the sunlight fades. Menendez returns to the stands and changes shoes. She also puts back her earrings. She had taken them off before practice.

“I found great friendships, laughs, bruises and an aggression that I didn’t know I had in me.”
Allison Warner ’23

Not everyone is so careful. Warner had forgotten to remove her earrings, and now she and a few teammates are looking for a lost one in the middle of the field. Somehow, despite the dying light, they find him. “Sometimes I forget that the rugby pitch isn’t the place to accessorize,” says Warner. “Physical contact makes jewelry dangerous.”

Warner co-captains the team with Gregory, and she says the club is always open and welcoming to new players. “We’re still recruiting,” says Warner. “Girls can be short or tall, fast or strong. There is a job for everyone. »

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