Women’s Rugby Goes Back to School in Hamilton

As an outlet for the Colgate women’s rugby team’s desire to give back to the Hamilton community and to promote rugby, the Rugby Girls program was started to teach local sixth, seventh and eighth graders the elementary aspects of rugby. The team really wanted to get the word out about the benefits of playing a sport just for fun and not necessarily at the Division I level – particularly rugby. During the week of January 31, several volunteers from the women’s rugby club at Colgate visited gym classes at the Hamilton Middle School to explain the rules and logistics of the game and then gave the students an opportunity to try their hand at the sport. Some of the Colgate women’s rugby players came to several of the gym classes that week to introduce the sport by showing a video clip of a professional game to illustrate the various aspects of a typical rugby contest. Because rugby is so different from most American sports and can be difficult to grasp, the video clip helped facilitate the students’ understanding of how the game is played. By the end of the week, though, the students demonstrated a surprisingly acute knowledge of rugby and its rules when asked. After explaining the basics of the game, the players then proceeded to familiarize the students with the rugby ball through a series of simple passing drills. The students picked up the skills very quickly and moved on to more difficult exercises with increasingly enthusiastic participation as the challenges picked up. Because most of the students returned to the rugby gym classes at least once more throughout the week, the volunteers continued to present more complicated drills as the program progressed, further absorbing the students. The project was a huge success from all perspectives. Both the Colgate and Hamilton students thoroughly enjoyed the time spent together. The school gym teachers were very impressed, so much so that they proposed bringing the program to the high school level as well. Many of the students were incredibly excited about the sport, and a number of them expressed disappointment that there was no way for them to pursue their interest, since no youth league exists in the area. However, several ideas have been suggested to find a way to continue the program and allow the students to continue to engage in the sport. The students also wanted to attend an actual game so that the Hamilton students would be able to come out and support the team.The team hopes that the program will become a tradition and, through their sport, the rugby girls will be able to continue to develop a bond with the local community.