For the women of Western’s rugby team, the players they line up with every time they take the pitch are more than just teammates.
“I’ve never experienced more of a family-like community than what rugby has provided for me, especially here at Western,” sophomore Kayla Adderley said. Adderley is the captain of the backfield for Vikings rugby. “We really love each other and that makes us stronger as a team.”
That supportive atmosphere is something the team has really needed as it goes through a transition this season.
The team has a new coach as well as several first-time players this season. All of this is going on as they are attempting to become a Division I sport.
Marion DeBarge Foor became the coach this year after the team had played a few seasons without a coach. DeBarge Foor actually coached Adderley in high school, and a conversation that started out as a joke eventually led to her joining the team.
“She had been asking me how rugby was,” Adderley recalled of the conversation they had had while she had been visiting back home in Olympia. Adderley informed her that it was student-run with no coach.
“She was shocked. We were jokingly throwing the idea around [that DeBarge Foor should coach] and she took it seriously,” Adderley said.
Having a coach was a big change for a lot of the players.
Lauren Heller is the forwards captain and team president. During her three years on the team, she has never had a coach.
Heller says DeBarge Foor has done a great job bringing a level of seriousness and legitimacy that the team would sometimes lack when it had to rely on player coaches.
“She helps us push ourselves to be better players,” Heller said, adding that DeBarge Foor has also done well in breaking down the complexities of the sport to the newer players in a way they can understand.
This is important for the Vikings as they are looking to find serious more competition.
In years past, Western has had to deal with other teams not having enough players or forfeiting for other reasons.
So this year the Vikings asked their league, Cascade Collegiate Women’s Rugby Conference, to give them the opportunity to face more serious competitors. The league responded by giving them more Division I opponents.
The result has been a steep learning curve for the Vikings. However, Adderley doesn’t believe the scores accurately portray Western’s ability to compete with the bigger, more funded schools.
“Putting the [bigger schools] up against us doesn’t really reflect how well we did when you look at the numbers,” Adderley said.
Outside of competition, rugby has benefited the players in other important ways.
“This sport makes you love your body,” Heller said.
“That’s something that, as a teenage girl coming into college, was not a good area for me,” she confessed.
“Because of rugby, I’ve grown an appreciation for my body type. I’m a big girl and I love working out now because of rugby,” she said. “It’s made me love every aspect of my body.”
Adderley also believes that the sport teaches you that your body has no limitations.
“You can be 5 feet tall, weigh 90 lbs and still kick ass,” Adderley said. “You can be 6 feet tall, weigh 175 lbs and still kick ass. It’s just all about the heart and the drive.”