Ending their 2022 spring season by winning the Women’s Plate within the consolation bracket of the Minnesota Rugby Union’s All Minnesota Sevens, Women’s Rugby had the goal of hiring a new coach and recruiting more members in the fall.
This fall the team welcomed former St. Olaf rugby player and current Covid-19 case manager Amra Mucic ’19 as well as three new players.
With their final game on Oct. 22 against Macalester, St. Olaf Women’s Rugbyteam is looking forward to the spring 2023 season with a hope to recruit more members, as they started the season with the smallest amount of players possible to play the game during the fall season.
Members of the team said the low turnout could be due to the inherent aggressiveness of the game. “I do know a huge part when I was at the table when we were trying to recruit them, so many people were like ‘oh no, I can’t, I’m scared to get hit,'” junior forward Kim Crosby ’24 said.
“They saw us tackling each other and they’re like ‘oooo,'” sophomore forward and hooker Xela Gunvalson ’25 said. Crosby hypothesized that the low-turnout could also be due to the inherent physical intimacy of the game on and the global pandemic.
Crosby said this physical aspect of the game has created an intimacy within the Women’s Rugby Team. “I think my favorite part is the scrum [an action that takes place during the game after a foul]. It’s really just like five people pushing as hard as they can against each other to try to get over this ball so we can get it out our end and around the ball. You’re like really in and close. There is a girl grabbing onto my sports bra, and I’m grabbing onto a girl’s sports bra and I got my other hand hooked on my hooker’s shorts. It’s just a very up close and personal game. I think there is a really huge comradery in rugby that people don’t realize,” she said.
Besides playing the best they can, having fun, and tackling a few people along the way, the team focuses a lot of their energy on diversity, equity and inclusion. “There is a huge topic going on right now of trans-players’ accessibility within rugby,” Crosby said. While anybody can join the “St. Olaf Women’s Rugby Team,” this doesn’t hold true when the Rugby Union holds the power. “We play with a lot of trans players. Going to a tournament and being very excited to play with these girls and then the rugby union will be like, ‘nope,’ is really upsetting,” Crosby said.
Personally and as a team, Crosby said she wants to work on finding a way to discuss trans-accessibility within the rugby sphere. “I want to do way more outreach with the team that is something near and dear to a lot of us. Figuring out a way that this issue is brought up, I don’t want to say ‘digestible,’ because people are going to eat it no matter what. But figuring out a way that shows the team’s support for something that is so near and dear to us,” she said.
The team, as well as rugby in general, is also an advocate and outlet for different skills sets and body sizes. “That is what I think is so cool about rugby. You look at any national team and you see such a difference in body size and skill sets. If you’re super fast, great, we want that. If you’re slow, also, we need that. If you’re big, skinny, you’re tall, you’re short, all great. So it’s like all different body types. There are people on the national team who weigh 170 pounds vs someone who weighs 370 pounds.”
The aspect of inclusivity that the team centers fosters a confidence that emanates from team members. “So we don’t get to keep our jerseys, we get them on game day. My first game everyone was stripping their shirts off, and I was like, ‘what is going on?’ This is the most confident group of people you will ever meet, the most non-judgemental people you will ever meet. They just make you feel good about yourself no matter what,” Crosby said.
The team is currently preparing for their less formal spring season. They practice Tuesday and Thursdays from four to six p.m. and weight lift from seven to nine pm on Wednesdays. The team welcomes everyone to join. “We heard during the co curricular fair people are afraid to join because our name is Women’s rugby, and they’re like ‘oh, what if I am trans, what if I am non-binary?’ That’s totally okay. This is just our name, anybody can join our team,” Gunvalson said.
The rugby team is excited for the season ahead and this year’s team holds a lot of potential.