Ruck, Maul, Tackle, Run: My Experience as a Rugby Newbie

I have participated in sports since I was a child. My favorites? The ones in which I could be aggressive. I have played soccer, basketball, handball, volleyball, lacrosse… But I was not completely happy in any of them – emphasis to lacrosse: while in men’s lacrosse they can literally hit each other with their sticks, in women’s lacrosse they can’t even cross in front of each other because it’s simply “too dangerous”. So, when I chose Babson and put down my payment I remembered I had read something about a women’s rugby team. I went after it, emailed them and got an answer back: “no experience needed,” perfect.

I was so excited. I told my entire family I was going to join the rugby team and as a matter of fact, most of them didn’t even know what rugby was – I don’t think we have a rugby team in Brazil, and well, if we do, this tells a lot about its popularity. Soon enough, when I told my father about the idea, he knew what rugby was and he immediately told me: “You are going to end up breaking a leg or an arm.” Super positive! Although the thought came to my head for the first time, I was fast to ensure him that I would be just fine, maybe just some bruises and scratches here and there.

I am going to admit that I was probably more excited for rugby than for college itself, and I couldn’t count the seconds till I could tackle someone for the first time. However, inside of me, I started growing this fear of breaking a bone. Still, I didn’t back out.

Another girl in my dorm, Amber, decided to come with me to the first practice. I was so excited. When we arrived at the field, we met the other girls. Some were rookies as well. We also met the coaches Dave and Nicole; who are the best.  Practice was very good, but nothing about tackling, so I had to ask them about it, and of course, mention my excitement for it. I also asked Nichole about the possibility of breaking a bone, and she told me that rarely someone breaks a bone, and if it happens, it’s because the person did something wrong. She also showed me some pretty big bruises on her leg and said that was probably the worst that was going to happen – she was right.

Less than a week later, I had my first scrimmage against a school that was one league higher than Babson, who were great. Before the game started, I was a little scared; I didn’t know how the game would follow, what I should do… My knowledge of an actual game didn’t go further than watching division one teams playing on YouTube. Fortunately, it was more a learning scrimmage than an actual game. We would stop many times to repeat plays so both teams could practice. But well, that didn’t stop me from tackling anyone. As soon as I had the chance, I ran the fastest I could and threw myself into the other girl. I had just tackled someone for the first time, and oh my goodness, it was one of the best feelings in the world.

I did it one more time, and again, and again. It was better every time. In the weirdest way, it feels therapeutic. I even joke with my friends that I always leave rugby games in the most peaceful state. The only problem came after the adrenaline lowered and my body could finally start feeling the pain. I woke up with huge bruises on my legs. I know I do get bruised easily and normally they look way worse than they actually are, so this time, the bruises were like the size of my hand. The funny part is that what normally causes them is the collision with my own cleats during my fall. So I can’t even complain.

For me, rugby is an awesome sport. If you ask me if you should join, I wouldn’t hesitate in saying yes. No matter your height, weight or if you’re muscled or not, there are different positions and you’re not necessarily tackling people. That’s just what I have committed to do, and if it’s not clear enough, I love it. Rugby tends to have this stereotype of huge, strong players, who don’t mind having many bruises, but that’s not accurate. There are girls on the team who don’t have a single bruise, and there are girls on the team who are probably less than 5’3” but still do a wonderful job.

So if you are thinking of a sport to join, join rugby! I promise you won’t regret it.