Women’s Rugby returns to Sewanee

by Blair Johnson
Staff Writer

Is it football, wrestling,  or quidditch? Rugby, a European sport, has had a long presence on Sewanee’s campus through our successful men’s team. This year Women’s Rugby has been reintroduced by freshmen Kathleen Kelso and Erin Smolskis, who serve asteam captains and also lead and plan the practices.

Kelso joined the Men’s Rugby team at the start of the year and learned the sport, but was not allowed to play in games due to league rules. Kelso met Smolskis, who played the sport in high school, through friends. They decided to restart the Women’s Rugby team and began practices last October after recruiting women interested in joining. “We didn’t introduce contact for the first couple of weeks,” said Kelso. “But our numbers dropped big time when the team heard we were going to do contact the next week.”

“After that, we definitely eased into it and took it a little slower,” said Smolskis. They have been aided by members of the men’s Rugby team who have helped out with practices, although “it’s hard for them to contribute fully because their season is really intense,” said Smolskis.

Although there is a very aggressive and macho stigma associated with Rugby, the Women’s Rugby team hopes to change those views with the integration of the traditionally European sport into America.

“People think rugby and they think giant foreign guys and they think I can’t do that,” said Kelso. “However, size is much less of a factor on women’s teams. And the men’s team here is uncharacteristically small in size in terms of individual players and they’ve been very succesful. Even in men’s leagues there are ways to overcome it through fitness.” The unfeminine stigma is also something the Women’s Rugby team hopes to overcome.“People ask, ‘so how many lesbians are on your team,’” said Kelso. “And that’s not really a box to check.”

Smolskis is an Irish dancer and plays a full contact sport. “Things like that are something that will surprise you and that’s what we tell a lot of the new girls,” said Smolskis.

The two freshmen are hoping to move the team off the ground this semester, and hope that with publicity the word will get out.  “We want to tell people what it’s really like and how fun it is,” said Kelso. “It’s bringing together a group of women who wouldn’t necessarily have been together before,” added Smolskis.

The Women’s Rugby team has a match in April with the UTC Women’s Rugby team and practices on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Kelso and Smolskis are also currently working on a friendly match in February with Lee College, whose Women’s Rugby team has a very well established program.

Contact Smolskis and Kelso at smolsem0@sewanee.edu and kelsokd0@sewanee.edu for any inquiries about Women’s Rugby and how to get involved.

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