By Hannah Kirk Nass
Throughout my time here at UVa, the CIO that has made the largest impact on my experience has been the Virginia Women’s Rugby team. A club team, women’s rugby feels different from many other clubs at UVa because there are no cuts and no experience is necessary. This creates an incredibly inclusive atmosphere, and because not many women play rugby in high school, the majority of my teammates played rugby for the first time ever here at UVa. Thanks to the dedication of the coaching staff – our two head coaches met while playing rugby in college – as well as the time and effort given by the team, we’re consistently ranked one of the best programs in the nation. We often play against varsity teams, and two years ago we went to finals, becoming the second best women’s rugby team in the nation.
That’s not to say that playing rugby is an easy activity. Beyond the time commitment of three practices a week and matches on the weekend, some home and some away, the sport is both physically and mentally demanding. How to deal with these challenges is taught to you from the beginning: when I first started playing my second year, I knew nothing about the sport and had lost most of my physical fitness in the year since high school sports. With regular strategy talks and team fitness sessions, my coaches and teammates have helped push me to my limits, and shaped me into a better athlete along the way. Not only am I in the best physical shape I’ve ever been in, the spatial and strategic awareness I’ve gained from running plays with 30 girls on the field (rugby is played with 15 players on each side) has helped me grow in more ways than one, and it’s a challenge I’m excited for each week.
The culture of rugby that this team introduced me to is what I’m most thankful for. Not only is the sport incredibly fun, with a secondary social scene that includes partying with the other teams we play, the bonds I’ve made with my teammates are ones that will extend well beyond our years on the team. We have team dinners together, travel all over the country together, live together on Grounds. It’s understandable, considering the physical and mental exertion that we collectively go through; we tackle people together, defend one another, and push each other to be our best selves, on and off the field. We literally become stronger together – the confidence boost that rugby provides, through both the gains and the tough lady friends, has been an immeasurable bonus of playing.
The six or so hours I spend playing and practicing on Mad Bowl (our field) are my favorite out of the whole week. It’s tiring, and I’m often covered with mud and bruises afterwards, but it’s so incredibly fun. Playing rugby helps you become super fit, make great friends, and most importantly, feel like such a badass.