Graphic by David Jakacky.

The University of Maine is home to over two hundred unique clubs and organizations, ranging in a variety of hobbies, crafts, philanthropic or even social activities. One of these organizations is the Women’s Rugby Club. 

Rugby is a contact sport originating from England in the 19th century. The game has two major variations, 15s which involves two teams of 15 players who play for 80 minutes, and 7s which is played by two teams of seven players for 14 minutes. The ball can only be thrown or passed backward, so forward progress is only possible by running toward the opposing team’s try line and avoiding being tackled. Points can be scored by grounding the ball in the in-goal area which is also known as a try, subsequent conversion kicks, penalty kicks or drop goals.

Rugby is believed to be the ninth most popular sport around the globe. However, women’s rugby only recently started to gain popularity both for players and fans alike. 

For some, the idea of joining a club sport — and one you haven’t played before nonetheless  — can seem scary. For current members Sam Lang and Maddy Gernhard, they fought back their nerves and decided to play for the first time themselves at UMaine. 

Gernhard, a fourth-year English student, never played sports in high school. However, she learned about rugby in a history class, and her teacher happened to be a sponsor for a local club. 

“He told me that I should try it because I had the ‘moxy’ of a rugby player … Two years later I was at a student org[anization] fair and I saw the table for the Rugby Club and a girl threw the ball at me, so I decided to try it out.”

It seems intimidating physically, but the benefits outweigh the nerves. 

Gernhard spoke of a sense of empowerment that has boosted her confidence across her life, and Lang describes a “click” when she joined the rugby team. 

“It is such a safe and fun environment and is truly like no other sport I have been a part of,” said Lang. “I think all ruggers can agree that rugby is a part of them.”

Lang, a first-year environmental ecology student, had a similar experience to Gernhard and liked playing contact sports like soccer. Or, at least, as close to a contact sport as possible. 

“My dad was in the military and at one point we had all moved to Ireland,” said Lang. “While I was there, I saw a couple matches and thought it was absolutely incredible… seeing that rugby was an option at UMaine, I knew I wanted to join as soon as I could.”

UMaine’s rugby team helps build trust where teammates learn to communicate effectively. 

“Our team is like a family,” stated Lang. “This year there are so many new members and it’s incredible how welcoming everyone is. On and off the field we try hard to make it a safe space.”

The rugby team travels across New England to play other colleges and universities during their season. They compete against other schools in the New England Collegiate 7’s Circuit and usually play games every weekend of October. Practices are held twice a week year-round, but the level of commitment can vary based on your personal preference.