The Gustavian Weekly

The unappreciated Women’s Rugby team | The Gustavian Weekly

By Ella Napton - Staff Writer | March 23, 2018 | Opinion

A player running to score.

A player running to score.

They are ranked fourth in the nation.

They participated in the Final Four tournament in Marietta, Georgia.

They traveled to Ohio and Georgia on the road to the National tournament.

They are the best Division 3 women’s team in Minnesota.

They have two players that were selected for the Final Four All-Tournament team.

The majority of their players did not play the sport before college.

The number one team in the nation, in the higher divisions, asks to play them every competitive season because they give them a challenge.

Practice and playing field is being considered as the designated smoking area on campus.

Their field is used as a driving range for the golf team.

Their coach balances being a firefighter and father of two young boys with coaching them, and he is underpaid.

They had to pay their way to both the Regional and National tournaments.

They rode a bus 17 hours to the Regional tournament in Ohio.

They received next to no recognition for even making it to the Final Four tournament.

When there was snow on the ground they were given two practice times: 6:15 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.; IM teams were a higher priority.

They are the Gustavus Women’s Rugby team, and their coach is Charlie Johnson.

Led by senior captains Tory Makela (Merc) and Kristen White (Buff), they are the least talked about successful sports team on campus.

Instead of getting coverage about their journey to the national tournament from October to December of 2017, the first time in program history, the football team winning a game was discussed.

The only coverage given to the team was a tweet on the Gustavus Twitter account with a link to an article about the team and their trip to nationals (which was much appreciated, do not get me wrong).

But a large majority of the Gustavus population had no clue that the women’s rugby team even participated in a national playoffs, let alone making it to the Final Four.

Gustavus rugby players doing a lift in a game.

This is in contrast to varsity sports playoff games being projected in the cafeteria for the whole student body to see.

While varsity sport participants can miss class no questions asked for a regular season away game, the rugby team had to convince professors to allow them to miss class for the regional and national tournaments without losing participation points.

They were expected to be in class (even if they had an 8 a.m.) the day after getting back to campus from the regional tournament in Ohio at 4 a.m.

This is not to say that the rugby team goes completely unappreciated at Gustavus.

There are a good number of professors that knew about their trip to nationals and made accommodations and offered congratulations.

Friends of rugby players watched the games live-stream online.

Gustavus helped with their fundraising efforts to get to Nationals and the Student Senate gave them money, in addition to the fundraising they did themselves.

But in comparison to other, varsity-level, sports teams at Gustavus (many of which have not been to a National tournament in years, besides Volleyball, Women’s Hockey, Women’s Soccer and various individual based sports, of course) the treatment they receive is much lower than that of those teams.

Of course, there is the argument that the rugby team is a club level sport and that the college is not required to give the team the same benefits as a varsity level sport.

The women’s rugby team is not even allowed to use the classic Gustavus three-crowns logo on the apparel they design and buy themselves.

While this is true, wouldn’t one assume that if a team went to nationals and represented your college you would allow them to use the emblem of said college? Yes.

But the women’s rugby team is not even allowed to use the classic Gustavus three-crowns logo on the apparel they design and buy themselves.

For reference, the ultimate frisbee team has permission to use the logo.

Wouldn’t you want to promote an extremely successful team and its players campus-wide to bring in perspective students that want a competitive, but still fun, sport experience in college? You would think so.

Furthermore, even considering turning the area around the only rugby pitch on campus into a designated smoking area is a ludicrous idea.

A good majority of players on the team suffer from asthma, and having remnants of smoke (if students would even use the designated smoking area) would trigger this even more than the exercise they are participating in.

In addition, using the pitch as a driving range leads to twisted ankles, spending warm-ups and a good portion of practice picking up golf balls strewn about everywhere, and even harder, more hazardous, landings during tackling drills.

Now, I’m not saying the team needs the ritz treatment but they do deserve recognition for their achievements, the respect of their facilities, and maybe an athletic trainer at games every now and then.

It’s not like they’re tackling people with pads on.