It’s interesting that rugby is the most played full contact sport in the world, but it’s relegated to club sports at the college level, which leads to a lot of inexperienced players on the teams.
The Michigan women’s club rugby team doesn’t have any players with previous experience according to their coach Herb Birch. Fortunately for the team, this is not a problem.
“The first rugby game most people play is the one that they’re in,” Birch said.
With that problem, the line between coaching and teaching is blurred.
“It’s hard to separate both teaching and coaching,” Birch said. “But due to the lack of experienced players on the team, it becomes more of a teaching experience.”
Experience is unnecessary, though. Just ask junior Hailli Ridsdale.
“I started playing rugby last January,” she said. “I had played soccer for 12 years and I felt that I wanted to try a new sport. I keep playing it because I like the fact that very few people know about the sport and that it’s a sport you can learn very quick. . I love being around the girls on the team, it’s a great atmosphere.”
Playing rugby gives the players on the team other experiences that they need, especially real-life lessons.
“Playing rugby teaches people to get up after getting knocked down, which is a valuable lesson in life,” Birch said, “In real life, you can’t be down on yourself when you get knocked down. You’ve gotta get up. I’m the vice president of a company, and I know you can’t be down on yourself.”
The rugby team is unique in that it practices with an outside squad, something varsity sports can’t do. The Ann Arbor women’s rugby football club practices with the club team, which provides a more realistic atmosphere during the scrimmages. When the teams line up for a line-in – rugby’s equivalent of a soccer throw-in – it provides a lot more realism for the simulation, which helps the team prepare for games.
As far as the future is concerned, Birch is optimistic about the team as well as the status of rugby in America.
“Rugby is the most popular full contact sport in the world and the United States has more players than any other country,” Birch said. “It is mostly because of the size of our population, but virtually every college and university in the country has rugby as at least a club sport, and it’s getting a lot easier to watch games on TV now.”