While the rugby season doesn’t typically get under way until the spring, a group of SMUS students have been on the pitch since early January practicing their rucking, passing and tackling.
For the first time, the Senior School is preparing to field a female rugby team to compete against other Vancouver Island schools.
“Women’s rugby is one of Canada’s fastest-growing sports. The history of rugby at SMUS is really strong and there has been a growing interest from girls here to participate in a rugby program,” says Ms. Lindsay Brooke, athletic director. “Now this group of girls will get to learn firsthand the values of team sport. They will be challenged physically, mentally and emotionally in an athletic venue that they otherwise might not have experienced at our school. They will also learn about themselves and will develop traits that will foster growth in leadership and character.”
Coached by Ms. Stefani Hanson and Mr. Spencer Robinson, the athletes have picked up the sport quite quickly and have already competed in a few exhibition games.
“The girls are doing really well. Every week I see them getting better – their rugby skills and their overall athleticism,” Stefani says. “The exhibition games have been good because they learn so much in one 14-minute game that you can’t get in a practice. You have to play it to learn it, so they’re at the point now where they’re understanding a lot more of the elements of the game.”
The season officially kicks off on April 8 (right after Spring Break) when our Senior girls sevens team plays at Claremont.
“It really is such a fast-growing sport. It’s big on the north Island, but down here the numbers aren’t as high so we have to do a sevens league and we’re limited in who we can play. But because it’s sevens, game days will usually be two or three 14-minute games in an afternoon so they’ll get a lot of exposure to the game,” Stefani says.
While the season is soon to start, she adds that the team will welcome more players with open arms.
“It’s a pretty easy sport to pick up in high school. And it’s growing so fast because you can have any body type to play: bigger, smaller, faster, slower,” Stefani says. “It’s a sport that involves so many skill sets and learning opportunities on and off the field. You need to work super hard but it’s so much fun. You go out and play hard rugby, and you’re tired and sore, but you’re just as keen to get back out and keep on improving.
“The school’s really keen on seeing this grow and building into a really good, strong program. Hopefully in a few years we can get a good 15s program and be known for having that great girls rugby program.”
(photos by Kyle Slavin)