The Femininity of Rugby
By Gabriela Vasquez-Rondon
Here at Dawson, sports have always been an important part of the college’s identity. From the bake sales in front of Conrod’s to the television that announces sports news when coming from the metro entrance, we are surrounded by constant reminders that the school loves sports. However, if you look closely, you start to notice that we are quick to encourage teams we know nothing about. Often, Dawson students are unaware of the differences that lie between the men and women’s teams, and what it means to be a woman playing college sports. While this division exists everywhere, it is particularly visible in the world of rugby.
“It’s very nice to have the option of this sport available to us, and the fact that you see all these other women who play it and who are so good at it, it’s very motivating, to try to work harder.”
Lily Hutchison is a second-year student who plays for Dawson’s all women’s rugby team. She has been playing rugby for about four years now, although playing in an all-girls team is still new to her. She used to be in a mixed team in high school, which was not always easy. As a woman, playing rugby can be seen as somewhat odd because of how rough and conventionally masculine it is. When asked about the relationship between the girls and the boys, Lily commented on how “we wouldn’t work together or anything.” She continued by saying, “that was my first interaction of being discriminated in a sport. The guys would pass the ball between them and then we’d have to force ourselves to get into it, but I also liked it because it made you have to establish, like, ‘I’m here’.” Once a sense of presence has been established, finding your own place on the field becomes easier and, as Lily mentioned, “It makes you throw yourself into the game,” and the feeling that comes out of that is very rewarding to the self.
It is also to be mentioned that despite its very rugged image, rugby is a sport that can be played by anybody. Lily mentions how, “the thing about rugby is, you could have anyone of any size and they’ll have a specific position that works out for their body type and height. That’s why I like rugby because whenever I would play soccer, before, I would always feel intimidated because all the girls were skinnier than me, but when I started playing rugby with Dawson, all the girls were different sizes and I was like wow, you don’t have to be one size. It made me accept myself even more.” Inclusivity in sports is something that is not generally talked about, but in rugby, it is something that is openly accepted and celebrated.
Kaylen Legget, who is also a member of Dawson’s all-girls rugby team, explains that “it’s very nice to have the option of this sport available to us, and the fact that you see all these other women who play it and who are so good at it, it’s very motivating, to try to work harder.” Her words bring a sense of wholesomeness to a sport normally considered brutal.
Kaylen’s team is coached by Kaneb Uphill, and when asked how she felt about being coached by a man, Kaylen said, “I like it, I think it’s fine. He’s been doing it for so many years that he really does know how the dynamics work and knows how to coach us.” Kaylen’s comment highlights the fact that a relationship based around trust and understanding can create positive dynamics in a team, no matter the gender of the players or the coach.
The girls’ relationship to their coach, and how they approach the sport, is very much connected to the philosophy of “we can do whatever we want,'' as mentioned by Lily. She adds, “it’s pretty much the same thing as if a man was playing. Our coach always tells us we’re no different from the men, you can do everything they can, probably better, don’t compare yourselves to them because you’re the same people. You can play better than them or worse than them, it doesn’t matter because at the end of the day you’re just people playing a sport and I think we should view it as that.”