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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All Hail

Hello everyone. There is something important you all should know about me. I have been a Washington Redskins fan for as long as I can remember.

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I believe this was my first Redskins game, I was five years old. Preseason, August 2000.

But to be honest, I never really had much of a choice. My dad is about as diehard of a fan as you’ll ever find. He bleeds burgundy and gold. And to be quite honest, he didn’t have much of a choice either. His father, my grandfather, is just as big of a fan. Washington football is a sacred Wood family tradition. My poor mother is a New York Giants fan, but she didn’t stand a chance against my dad’s love for her NFC East rival. Both my brother and I are diehard Washington fans, so for all twenty one years of her marriage, my mother has been surrounded by everything REDSKINS. By now though, she is used to it and puts up with it for the most part.

Redskins football was a major part of my childhood. I grew up going to games every Fall. When I was six years old, I was really upset because my dad couldn’t go to the Girl Scouts Daddy/Daughter Dance with me that year. He felt bad of course, and instead offered to take me to a Redskins game for my birthday. We have done it every year since then, as I grew older I got to go to more than one game a year. The games I’ve attended throughout the years have brought me some of my best and worst memories. I watched Darrell Greene win his final game. I watched Troy Vincent block a last-minute Dallas field goal attempt, Sean Taylor running it back leading to a successful Redskins FG for the win. However… I also watched the Redskins attempt two horrible fake field goals back-to-back in a game we lost 12-45. I watched our center fumble the ball on an extra point attempt that would have sent the game into overtime. I watched through excitement and heartbreak, and I cherish it all.

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Redskins game during my awkward years…

I am not going to lie, in my lifetime, being a Redskins fan has not always been easy. In my near nineteen years of living, the Redskins have won 133 games and lost 170 games. They have only won the division two times, yet they have placed last in the division seven times. In my life the Redskins have travelled to the playoffs four times, only bringing home two playoff wins. Lackluster, at best. By the way you better appreciate those statistics because it took me a long-ass time to put that together. Anyway, being a Redskins fan has not always been the most glorious thing. I’ve taken a lot of crap for it. But I’ve never once faltered. I could never think of cheering for another team. Like my grandfather and father before me, I bleed burgundy & gold.

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Tucker & I at last season’s playoff game against Seattle. We may have lost but we were damn proud to have been there.

I love sports in general. Sports can really be a genuinely amazing thing, no matter what team you cheer for. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, as I mentioned previously, the Redskins have only won the NFC East Division twice in my lifetime. The first was in 1999, I was only five and don’t remember it at all. Once I started getting into football, I watched us lose a lot and be average for years. We had our bright moments, but the majority of it all, as I stated before, was lackluster. I had gotten pretty used to the Redskins being mediocre, and I would usually expect it, but I always hoped that maybe this would be our year. Maybe this would be our year to shine. But it never was. My whole life, every year was… lackluster. But I guess that’s why last year felt so damn special. For those of you who live under a rock, the Redskins are now led by rookie quarterback sensation, Robert Griffin III. After a typical lackluster start to the season we stood at 3 wins and 6 losses. However, led by RGIII, the Redskins went on a stunning seven game win streak, leading them to an NFC East title and an automatic playoff berth. And let me tell you, it felt DAMN good for myself and Redskins fans everywhere! We have stuck around for years of countless dumb decisions, dropped passes, interceptions, missed kicks, high snaps, and whatever else. But watching them make that historical playoff run made all of that totally and completely worth it! And that is what I believe makes sports so amazing. You have your one team that you stick with through thick and thin, good times and bad times. The losses may be heart wrenching, frustrating, insufferable, or whatever else but the wins make your heart fill with so much joy. Being able to experience last season with my family, friends, and fellow Redskins fans everywhere was absolutely indescribable.

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Me at the 2013 Redskins Training Camp right here in RVA 🙂

For once in my life, it is cool to be a Redskins fan. Throughout the years I have taken endless crap from my peers, but now they can’t say anything because we are good, and we are only gonna get better. On top of that, the Redskins have relocated their training camp to my hometown: Richmond, VA. It is the hottest, most talked about event in the city right now and I am absolutely loving it. I went down to training camp the other day and it made my heart soar. My beloved town is covered head to toe in burgundy & gold. The Redskins spirit is unbelievably high. Everyone is so excited and encouraged because we are actually GOOD! I just love it. It feels awesome to be a part of that community. It makes you feel like you are a part of something special, you know?

A lot of you by now may be rolling your eyes, if you have even made it this far. I know its only football, and in the grand scheme of things, its not all that important. I get it. But Washington Redskins football means so much to me. It’s about more than just the football. A lot of people don’t understand that. Redskins football brings back so many bright memories of my childhood. Redskins football brings me closer to my grandfather, father, brother, uncle, aunt, cousins, boyfriend… (Yes, Tucker is a Redskins fan. After reading all this do you really think I could date someone who was NOT a Redskins fan?) Redskins football has brought me some of my heroes, inspirations like Champ Bailey, Patrick Ramsey, Lavar Arrington, Chris Cooley, and Robert Griffin III. Redskins football gives me confidence, motivation, something to be excited about. Redskins football has given me so much, as stupid as you may think that sounds, its true. Redskins football is a huge part of my life, and it will be forever.  I wouldn’t want it any other way 🙂

Hail to the Redskins 🙂

xoxo Katie Lou