On Saturday, April 11th we hosted the 2nd Annual Women in Rugby Day on Randall’s Island! This event, launched in Spring 2014, was created to foster the growth of women’s rugby in NYC and highlight the player pathway that now exists for girls thanks, in part, to the programs provided by Play Rugby USA. Young women in NYC can now begin their rugby careers as early as elementary school and have opportunities to stay engaged in the sport through middle and high school, college and beyond.
Working in partnership with three other outstanding organizations, Saturday’s event built on the success of last year with over 30 women and girls participating in activities designed specifically for them. Play Rugby USA kicked off the rugby portion of the day with a rugby skills challenge lead by our Kiwi intern, Talima. Participants slalomed through the course, including tackle pads which the girls and grown ups alike took pleasure smashing into!
PowerPlay NYC, an organization dedicated to empowering girls through sport and play, led an interactive workshop on overcoming challenges. To begin the girls shared something they consider a challenge in their lives, and then they put their grit and determination to the test as they completed an elaborate obstacle course – all while trying to keep an egg safely in hand.
Wellness in the Schools works to inspire healthy eating, environmental awareness and fitness as a way of life for kids in public schools. Tapping into the girl’s competitive nature, they led participants through fun fitness activities and relay races to get their hearts pumping.
The Village Lions RFC brought their women’s team, known as the Leonas, out to volunteer on the day. The Leonas acted as group mentors as the girls moved through the activities, and it offered them the opportunity to share the best aspects of women’s rugby with the next generation of players.
This year’s event served an older group of participants, most of them high school students, with varied experience levels. Girls who have been playing rugby for over 3 years were playing right alongside those who were introduced to the sport only a few weeks before. Despite that difference the girls worked together and encouraged each other like long-time teammates. According to a survey collected at the event this sense of team camaraderie was strong as 93% of girls surveyed reported that their teammates make them feel confident.
The survey also indicated other positive effects that playing rugby has the girl’s sense of wellness. 93% reported that playing rugby makes them feel strong and healthy, and 86% report that they feel confident in themselves when they play. These are encouraging figures particularly for young women who are at a critical age for developing a strong sense of self efficacy. However, echoing our 2014 survey results, 60% of participants reported that lack of support, confidence or opportunities to play were barriers that prevented them from participating in the past, and only 53% of girls surveyed report that they feel optimistic about their future in rugby. These results suggest that there are very clear positive benefits to girls participation in rugby, but that more opportunities and support are still needed to keep them engaged.
We’re working daily to ensure that this becomes a reality, with girls representing 40% of our participants nationwide. Nearly every Play Rugby USA tournament includes an all-girls bracket in order to offer girls increased opportunities to play, and looking ahead we’re working to increase programming in NYC for girls aged 11-15, critical years when many young women discontinue their participation in sports.
We’d again like to thank all of our event partners for making this a fantastic experience for everyone involved and we look forward to making an even bigger impact next year!