Spartan Women’s Rugby makes a comeback



The White Station Girls Rugby Team concludes its first practice of the fall season with the 901 Rugby Club on Tuesday, Sept. 13th. Posing with a flyer, the team is eagerly recruiting to build their team for the season.

(From left to right) Shania Moore (11), Stephanie Kunz and Morgan Collum (11) set up a table in the White Station cafeteria on Monday, Sept. 19th. The team gave out candy and set up videos of rugby games for potential recruitments passing by. (BOBBY BURNETT//USED WITH PERMISSION)

 Rugby: the sport described as a rough mixture between soccer and American football. The White Station Girls Rugby Team is having a comeback after about six years of being disbanded. Rugby is a fast-paced, high contact sport, usually perceived as rough or dangerous, but these girls are defying odds and assumptions.

The girls work with the 901 Rugby Club bringing Spartan spirit onto the field and into the Memphis rugby scene. Although some players have trained for this season, others are walking onto the field and sprinting with the ball for the first time. During the fall season, 7s is played where only 7 players from each team are permitted on the field.

“I didn’t really have any expectations for rugby,” Molly Engstrom (11) said. “I thought it was a really rough game which sounded fun.”

Rugby is different from other high school sports since it does not fall under the NCAA sports requirements. Since there is only one lineup for offense and defense, the whole team plays both sides of the ball. However, a community forms over time as teammates communicate both on and off the field. By yelling ‘I’m open’ or simply encouraging others at practice, teammates are able to grow together as a team

“Rugby is just different,” Engstrom said. “It’s so competitive but still has that family element within the team.”

Although the White Station Women’s Rugby Club has been in place before, trying to restart the club is not easy. To help recruit new members, the team has been putting in work to rebuild the team by making flyers and having announcements made over the intercom.

“[Recruiting] is going alright, but we’re slowly gaining more people,” Engstrom said. “Hopefully it’ll keep going well.”

As of now, the team is only getting started, but the players believe that they can make it through this 7s season and hope to have a team big enough for the 15s season, the season that occurs in the spring where 15 players are permitted on the field for each team. Not only do the players have a positive outlook on the team’s future, so does their coach, Stephanie Kunz. Kunz trains, motivates and guides the players as they begin their practices.

“Looking at our numbers I’m really happy about it,” Kunz said. “I enjoy sharing this great sport with the next generation, so they can enjoy it in the same way I do.”

Rugby is often viewed as a men’s sport due to the rigorous demands, rough rules and overall physical attributes of the sport, but in recent years women’s participation has increased immensely.

“Now with scholarships available for young women going to college, it has an even greater impact to affect the future in a positive way,” Kunz said.

Confidence levels among women are rising due to the growing community among female ruggers. In recent years, the number of female rugby players has been surging as inequality gaps between genders continue to decrease.

“It makes me feel so empowered,” Engstrom said. “I have a greater sense of toughness.”

Other than tackling, rucking and scoring a try, the White Station Women’s Rugby Team has learned other life skills while playing their beloved sport. Players have dedicated time and immense effort in order to expand their athletic capabilities. For many, rugby has not only improved their physical well-being but has also impacted them emotionally and socially.

“Rugby has taught me a lot about communication on and off the field,” Engstrom said. “And I think that’s a really great lesson for anyone to learn.”