Saturday’s a Rugby Day

Describe myself in five words? Easy.

Kind. Hard-working. Dramatic. Passionate. Ambitious. 

This is a story about my ambition.

You may have read my previous post talking about my year at USC. Let me refresh your memory… I was on the cross country team first semester and I really didn’t enjoy that. It put a lot of pressure and stress on me. Come Winter Break, I had decided to quit the cross country team and was considering transferring to JMU. But I before I made that decision, I really wanted to give the second semester a good go. I needed to experience USC without cross country and get involved around campus.

I considered joining all kind of organizations. Singing groups, sororities, interest clubs, even the Quidditch team… I attended the “Organization Fair” to get signed up for some of those groups, when one sign really caught my eye. It read…

USC CLUB RUGBY

Rugby was never a sport I paid attention to. I mean, I knew it existed but I didn’t know a thing about it except that it was supposedly “a mixture between soccer and football.” Well I love football. There aren’t many options for women to play football but here was the next best thing right in front of me! Plus, now that I was no longer running cross country, I needed some sort of competition in my life. And I imagined how totally badass I would seem to my friends back home… So on a total whim, I was signed up for the women’s rugby club.

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Don’t I just scream “Rugby Player”?

Now this may not seem all that crazy or ambitious to you, but you must understand that I am not a big person. This isn’t customary for a woman to do, but I’ll throw it out there that I am 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weigh 115 pounds. That is not big by any means. Rugby is a sport for strong, muscular, athletic women…unlike myself. It is a sport in which you tackle one another while wearing no sort of padding. It is a sport that features the “scrum,” which has been described as the most dangerous play in sports. Its difficult to describe so if you click this link, you can experience it for yourself. I am NOT a person who was made for rugby. I mean, my legs look like they might snap in half with one good tackle. But nonetheless, I was determined to succeed in rugby and was stupid enough to believe I actually could. I have a lot of endurance, which I knew would help me in long games, and I’m pretty quick. I somehow justified this as a formula for rugby success.

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First day of rugby practice. Honestly, don’t I look stupid?

I showed up on the first day of practice as eager as a kindergartner on the first day of school. Well that eagerness died pretty quickly, because I have never felt more out of place, stupid, and childish in my entire life. I was a girl among women. Luckily for me, the girls on the team were incredibly welcoming and helped me ease in to the sport of rugby. Plus there were several other newbies who had never played before, so I wasn’t alone. I was actually encouraged after the first day of practice!!! I succeeded on the running drills, and we just did walkthrough tackling drills. It was nothing I couldn’t handle, which for me felt like a huge win. I skipped back to my dorm with so much joy, because in my heart I believed that a new superstar was born.

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The only picture taken of me in my rugby uniform. So intense.

Well then came full-on tackling. And games. And I very very quickly realized that rugby just wasn’t my thing. I was placed at the position where the smallest girls play: wing. Basically they catch the ball and run. That’s it. I barely played, and when I did play, I barely touched the ball. I was given the nickname “Twig” by my teammates, which is not a bad nickname to have in other aspects of life, but it is when you are playing a sport in which it is important to be big and strong. I did not make a single tackle all season. I SUCKED. And sucking at rugby was a hard pill for me to swallow. I was used to running, where I was on the Varsity Cross Country team for four years straight. I was used to being one of the best athletes at competitions, not one of the worst! Plus, the thing I was most excited for- looking like a badass to all of my friends back home- was also a complete and total fail. They did not find my rugby playing cool, they found it stupid. I found one particular exchange with a friend of mine rather amusing:

Friend: Why on Earth did you decide to play rugby?

Me: I just wanted to try something new.

Friend: Do drugs!!!

He was kidding, of course. But its not unreasonable to think that some of my friends thought that doing drugs was a better idea for me than playing rugby.

I officially retired from rugby on February 25, 2013 after one month in the sport. I did not intend on retiring this early, but I was forced to. Earlier in the night, we were practicing as usual. However, that night we had to do a particularly frightening tackling drill that scared the living hell out of me. We all formed a line (tacklers), and one person would stand a few feet away facing the line (tacklees). The person at the front of the line would then tackle the loner and then stand in their position facing the line. The person who had just been tackled would move to the back of the line. Hopefully that made sense to you, because as I wrote it, it didn’t really make sense to me. Anyway, my turn came and I did a horrible tackle that did not move the tacklee an inch. My turn to tackle finally came, a moment I had been dreading. We were specifically instructed not to juke but to take the tackle head on. I was scared. And rightfully so, because my tackler delivered one hell of a tackle, and I went down hard with my neck and head snapping back onto the ground. I popped up pretty quick, but the tears were already flowing and I felt horrible. Soon after, I was diagnosed with a concussion. And that was that, my rugby career was over.

To be honest, I wasn’t all that upset about it. I wish it had happened in a different way, because the concussion sucked and it got me really behind in my classes, but I was glad to be done with rugby. It just wasn’t for me. That being said, it wasn’t a total fail. Overall, I enjoyed the experience and I think it was really good for me. First of all, it gave me a bit of a gut check. I also learned a lot about a really cool sport, and I really enjoy watching rugby now. I got to watch a lot of that really cool sport because I spent most of my time on the bench. But most importantly, it introduced me to a really awesome group of girls. Let me tell you, we had some really good rugby players on our team. These girls could kick some major ass. But even so, they were so welcoming to me and treated me as an equal part of the team, even though I totally wasn’t. They made practice fun, and never put any pressure on any of us newbies. They never made us feel like a bad player (even if we were), instead they were always trying to help us improve. The girls I met on the rugby team were the only thing that kept me wanting to stay at USC. I probably never see any of them again, but I will always appreciate what they did for me.

So thats my story of ambition. I tried something I knew I would totally suck at, I did totally suck, but I kept on trying until I screwed up my head (sometimes my neck still hurts from the damn whiplash). I wrote this post to be inspiring, but I’m sure most of you all will find it funny. Whatever. I could kill all of yall in rugby. Consider it a challenge 😉

Until next time!!!

xoxo Katie 

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