One of Cedar Rapids Washington High School’s strengths as a school is its impressive variety of clubs, sports, and activities provided to students. This year the school added yet another option that was long overdue: a girls rugby team. Rugby at Wash started a few years ago with a boy’s team, which quickly sparked the idea for a corresponding girls’ team.
Rugby, originating in the United Kingdom, is growing in popularity around the country. In recent years, women’s rugby numbers have been exponentially increasing. Now, the sport has found its way to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Rugby is a football-like, full-contact, team sport, played continuously, without forward passing. The game involves scoring, goals, running with the ball, tackling, and more. It has drawn tons of student interest and attention at Wash, as well as at other schools because Wash is one of the few high schools in the area that offers the program.
Girls Rugby is coached by Patrick Lausen, Chris Karametros, and Luke Duhirmos. The participants are enthusiastic and represent a wide variety of schools, experiences, ages, and interests. The team is made up of girls at Wash, from all grades, as well as Jefferson, Kennedy, Linn-Mar, and Solon students. The Iowa Youth Rugby Rules allow a player to play for a school other than their own if their home team does not provide the option. This results in a team with a mix of participants from area schools because Wash is one of the first in the area to have a team for girls interested in the sport. The team is mixed with players who are comfortable with the sport and have played for a while, but also plenty with no previous knowledge of what rugby even is. They only practice on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 pm and 9:00 am on Sundays. This makes it easy and accessible for fall athletes to join and not have a conflict with their current sport and encourages more participation. Most of the girls on the team are fall athletes in cross country, volleyball, and swimming, as well as students involved in marching band, show choir, and more.
During the boys’ season, players frequently mentioned the idea of a girls’ team. With persuasion from their male players, the coaches gauged interest for a girl’s team through an online survey and received a flood of responses. Enough girls expressed interest, so the team was made official. Practice started on August 26th of this year, and the ball was rolling— quite literally. Enthusiastic athletes showed up ready to play but with little knowledge of the game. The sport is challenging and physically demanding, but, the girls on the team describe it as very rewarding. “It’s super hard but I love it. It’s great to learn something new” said Grace Fox, a senior on the team. The players shared that the sport was difficult with lots of running and rough contact but ultimately worth it and lots of fun.
The team practices three times a week on the front lawn for a little bit over an hour. They start with fundamentals like passing, running lines, and more. Then, the team focuses on the contact points of the game, such as tackling. This is followed by set-pieces (similar to football plays) and is followed by conditioning. The team currently has 14-16 girls depending on the day, and right now, have enough participants for only one team. With a couple more players, the coaches say a JV and Varsity team is possible. Rugby is approximately a seven-hour per week time commitment with the hour and a half practices and a game once a week (when they start). The first game is on September 20th at Mount Mercy University. The team plays games on five consecutive Mondays until the end of the season.
According to Patrick Lausen, the head coach, “the best part of the game is that there is a role for everyone. It is the ultimate team sport.” The team is described by many players as a group of positive, uplifting girls who bring great energy to the sport and are eager to play. Mackenzie Neiland, a sophomore on the team says “the team is amazing and the girls are so uplifting and supportive.” Neiland went on to praise the positivity of the team. The players and coaches are excited about what’s to come from the season. Coach Lausen is excited about the rapid growth he has seen so far in the team and is looking forward to witnessing the girls reach their full potential. Grace Fox said she “can’t wait to get in a game and see what it’s like.” The team is super solid and supportive, and with the good numbers and uplifting attitudes the players have, many see a bright future ahead.
Players like Neiland and Fox expressed excitement that the girls finally have a team of their own. “It’s great to have female representation in a male-dominated sport, especially here at Wash!” Fox says. The players are proud that Wash is one of the first schools in the area to have a female rugby team. Wash Girls Rugby has gotten off to a great start with tons of interest, eager players, great coaches, and talent. Coach Lausen mentioned multiple times that he’s excited to be a threat at the state and sees great things for this team. The team is always looking for more players to join. It’s such a positive and active thing to get involved in and the girls are supportive and always welcoming new players.
Lausen summarized, “Rugby experience, especially in high school, is very valuable so the goal would be to continue to build on what has been started. With the team having good numbers of freshmen and Sophomores there could be a very solid team for years to come. ANYONE can join at any point, so if you’re reading this and interested come play!” Interested players need only to show up at one of the next practices, held on Wednesday and Thursday at 5 p.m. or 9 a.m. on Sunday morning on the front lawn, to start their rugby career.