Women’s rugby club gains momentum

Students, Roni Bagby and Emily Pearce, set out Jan. 28 on a mission to gather 30 signatures from female students who would want to play on a school-sponsored women’s rugby club.

It’s been seven months, and much progress has since been made.

Though not yet an official school-sponsored club, women’s rugby is currently holding practices every Tuesday and Thursday. The team is coached by Jarrod Heathcote as well as three captains – Pearce, junior, along with sophomores, Anna MacLachlan and Hannah Malone. According to Malone, over 30 girls have signed up with an interest to play.

“We’re hoping to get between 25 and 30 girls attending practices regularly, because while we need 15 girls on the field to play Union Rugby, we need about 5 to 10 subs,” junior rugger, Megan LaFond, said. “We’re on the right road to do that, and we’re so excited with the amount of interest that we’ve gotten for the club.”

After attaining the 30 signatures and the two faculty sponsors are needed, the club began to take form. The first step was getting the members together and getting them involved.

“We began having practices and just getting out there and talking rugby with the girls,” Pearce said.

So far this semester, the club has been having more practices, which, according to Coach Heathcote, are going very well.

“I think they’re picking it up great,” Heathcote said. “It’s a natural process of learning the game…They’re doing really well. They’re starting to get organized. We’re at a stage of just gaining more and more interest and getting committed to practices.”

The current level of commitment, interest and performance has allowed the club to look at possibly traveling to Wayne State University in Nebraska on Sep. 19. There they will play in a tournament for new women’s rugby teams, the Rookie Rumble. Heathcote said that attending this tournament would be a good way to gain experience.

“We’ll get a group that will start practicing together consistently, go to the Rookie Rumble and then possibly have another friendly match this semester,” Heathcote said. “In the spring, [we hope to] grow and get a few more friendly matches in.”

Along with the team goals, the club also hopes to gain full certification through the school.

“I do see it becoming an official club, but it’s only going to come through dedication from people and support from the school and from other students,” Pearce said.

Looking farther into the future, other members have big dreams for the club. MacLachlan expressed her belief that women’s rugby will eventually become an official sport of John Brown University campus life.

“I see it succeeding all the way,” MacLachlan said. “Fifty years from now, we’ll be looking in the archives at the picture we took yesterday and we can brag to our grandchildren, ‘We were on the first Women’s Rugby team at JBU.’ So I think it’s going to become a very big part of JBU history and culture.”

Though some definite challenges lay ahead for the University’s women’s rugby club, they are hopeful for the future.

“It’s super cool to see that word is getting out and that this actually is happening,” Pearce said. “We’re really doing this.”