Soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball have the most scholarships available to women, but there are also WAY MORE girls playing those sports and competing for those scholarships. If you have an athletic girl who may not be good enough to play in one of those top four sports, but is still a good athlete, it’s time to think outside the box. Even if it’s not a scholarship your child is after, it’s possible that excelling in one of these sports may help get her accepted into a university or at the very least, discover a new passion.
According to scholarshipstats.com, there are three emerging women’s sports in the NCAA: equestrian, beach volleyball and women’s rugby. Equestrian is a very specialized skill; beach volleyball typically draws from the indoor volleyball athletes; rugby is a wild card.
It’s the second most popular sport in the world next to soccer and as an NCAA-designated “emerging” sport (a sport they are testing out to see if it can gain status as an official NCAA sport), college rugby has grown more than 42% in the last several years. Brown, Harvard, and Dartmouth all just added women’s rugby to their schools. According to therecrutingcode.com, there are currently 15 NCAA programs and 347 women’s club programs at colleges and universities that offer women’s rugby. (For a complete list click here.) To top that off, rugby is back in the Olympics this summer for the first time since 1924.
We interviewed the US Women’s Olympic Coach (and Neurologist) Dr. Jules McCoy and asked her a few questions about the game.
1. ILTWYP.COM: What type of athlete makes a good women’s rugby player – what strengths or attributes would be beneficial?
Dr. McCoy: In short, girls/women who love being physical, and who love “gaming” their opposition. Rugby is a physical contest of physical wills. Gladiator vs Gladiator. It’s the ONLY sport that allows “girls” to take out their aggression by tackling; an activity that is very empowering. One of my favorite sayings is “if you can play rugby, you learn you can do anything”.
2. ILTWYP.COM: Do you need to have played rugby for a long time in order to play in college or do a lot of the athletes come from other sports?
Dr. McCoy: NO. Because Rugby is not a primary sport in the USA, everyone playing, coaching and refereeing the sport is very welcoming to any and all interested parties, at every level. To make the National team, one either has to have knowledge of the game OR exhibit very athletic qualities, but at every other level, you can bet if a player signs up, the coach and players of that team will go out of their way to help teach and retain that new player!
3. ILTWYP.COM: What is something about women’s rugby that is misunderstood by the average person?
Dr. McCoy: Other than the obvious fear of injury, I would guess it’s the fear of the sport’s DIVERSITY. Rugby has a position for every size, shape, and athletic ability. Like soccer, it is a sport that depends on player decisions, not necessarily coaching decisions, which is unlike most “American” based sports. Unlike other sports, ANYONE can score, which I have found most appealing to the next generation’s youth (who feel constantly micro managed!). Many Americans that play rugby have a parent from a rugby playing nation, which means that one gets to play with folks who might have grown up watching the game, which brings new cultures into play here in the US. Lastly, rugby attracts athletes who APPRECIATE Diversity, which makes for a very eclectic and interesting community!
4. ILTWYP.COM: What will having rugby in the Olympics this year mean to the sport?
Dr. McCoy: For those of us who have been championing the sport here in the USA, the Olympics means redemption, and legitimacy! I’m 52, and have been either playing or coaching in the USA for 30 years; most people I have encountered have considered my passion for rugby as a “habit” or “cult” activity, since rugby is not shown on US television. So, personally for most of us in the USA, rugby in the Olympics means “Hey, SEE, I told you it was cool!”