Out of the 34 club sports at Clemson University, it can easily be said that women’s rugby hits the hardest.
Consisting of approximately 30 women during the 15s season, the team practices from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the upper intramural fields. They play games year round, starting September and through the summer, and they officially begin practice once more each August.
Joining the team is not hard, and it apparently only has one requirement.
“Show up,” Kim Henning, a senior geology major and president of women’s rugby, said. “Most of our players, including myself, start without any experience at all.” According to Henning, practices leading up to the first game of the year are structured to aid new players in picking up the game.
The game itself serves as the basis on which American football was built, allowing Clemson’s National Championships to exist, though there are undeniable differences between the games played in Death Valley and those played on the intramural fields. Henning gave a brief overall of the differences between rugby and football.
“So for starters, we do not wear padding like football requires. We wear specially designed tear-resistant jerseys, tear-resistant shorts, socks, cleats and a mouth guard and that’s it. Next, our game is split into two halves and not four quarters. We play for 40 minutes at continuously with a 10 minute half-time. The ball is always live unless it goes out of bounds or there’s a penalty, like a knock on. And lastly the biggest difference is in passing. The ball we use is slightly larger and more round than a football, and we are able to pass to whoever we want on our team, as long as they are behind us. You can only pass backwards in rugby. Also, you can pretty much kick the ball whenever you want to.”
Women of all shapes and sizes are encouraged to learn the rules and play the game.
“The most valuable quality is someone with a great attitude who loves the team and loves the game even more,” Henning said.
As for where these games take place, Y-Beach’s turf fields or the upper intramural fields usually host games on weekends. The games are free, and the homecoming game is always the most popular. Over 150 alumni are invited each year, and the game and functions do an excellent job of reminding people what exactly creates a rugby team.
“Rugby is a game built on respect and love,” Henning said. “We spend a lot of time together as a team, whether it’s practicing, traveling or just hanging out in our down time. We think of ourselves as a warm and inviting team and we do what we can to make everyone welcome.”
As shown by the homecoming game, this openness extends to teammates even after they graduate. Such tight connections between teammates is not surprising considering the necessity of teamwork when playing rugby.
“What matters most is the bond you have with your teammates,” Henning said. “We want to play rugby and we want to win but more importantly, we want to be with our best friends…Rugby is great because it’s allowed for me to experience college and Clemson in a way that I could never find the right words to explain.”
For those interested in learning more or joining the team, the women’s rugby email is email@example.com. Their Facebook is Clemson Women’s Rugby and their Instagram is clemsonwrugby.