When the Ohio Rugby Union (ORU) disbanded over the summer, the organizing body that the Kenyon Women’s Rugby Club (KWRC) belongs to, club president Molly McCleary ’14 took it upon herself to reorganize the league.
“I sent out an email to the people who had been in the Ohio women’s north [rugby union], and said ﾑlet’s just operate in our division this year.’ And I didn’t get any responses, and I had almost given up until August and then I finally started getting responses,” McCleary said. “I set a final date for commitments, and then on that day I just sat down and pulled up everyone’s website; I planned out the league schedule around everyone’s ridiculous fall break. We’re smaller than the men’s league, we’ve only got six teams now, and I think it’ll go to seven or eight in the fall, probably more. So it was fairly easy to set it up.”
This past summer, McCleary and Michael Kengmana ’14 stepped up as commissioners for two entire leagues, coordinating around a dozen schools each. McCleary took over as the head of the women’s Ohio Northern Rugby Union (ONRU) and Kengmana is the commissioner for the newly-formed Ohio Small University Rugby Premiership (OhSURP). In addition to taking over their respective leagues, both McCleary and Kengmana are active on Kenyon’s squads; McCleary is a four-year member of KWRC and Kengmana plays the position of fly-half for the men’s team.
Until last summer, the ORU coordinated the various club rugby teams around Ohio, but last year it was combined with the rugby leagues from Michigan into the Great Lakes Conference, creating a bureaucratic nightmare.
“That was even worse than the ORU was,” Kengmana said.
McCleary added, “It was pretty poorly organized. The ORU was intended to organize a fall league match schedule and then have a playoff.”
The ORU also struggled with administrative matters.
“They were just late on everything,” Kengmana said. “They charged $400 dues for every team. They’d start asking for stuff maybe around May or June, forgetting the schedule. And then you wouldn’t get the schedule until August, and we know after doing the stuff we did over the summer that it only takes a couple of hours to make a schedule. And that’s really problematic for everyone, because you have to book transportation, book refs, and that’s really not a lot of time to do that.”
Last summer, the ORU abruptly shut down, leaving its previous members without an organizing body for the upcoming rugby season.
“Everyone in the ORU got an email,” Kengmana said. “Normally they start sending out stuff mid-May. We didn’t hear anything until mid- to late-June saying that [the former commissioner] was resigning.”
That’s when McCleary took matters into her own hands and reorganized the women’s league. Kengmana followed suit on the men’s side.
“Me and this other guy, Andrew Asgian, the president of [rugby at] Baldwin-Wallace [University] ﾅ were actually planning to kind of secede from the rugby union and form our own league beforehand. And then we saw that it was no longer a thing, so ﾅ I did the same thing as Molly,” Kengmana said. “We sent out an email to all the D-III teams in Ohio saying, ﾑWe’re making a new league, let us know if you want to join.’ The first step was calling USA Rugby, and then forming the schedule.”
Kengmana said organizing the playoffs proved especially difficult.
“I had to coordinate with the head of NSCRO, the National Small College Rugby Organization, and set up the regional tournament for the Great Lakes region, which is Michigan and Ohio; that doubles as our league’s playoffs,” he said. “It’s a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails. It’s a lot of pushing buttons and being diligent. It’s a lot of paperwork, but it’s good to have in place.”
By taking charge, McCleary and Kengmana enabled the two Kenyon teams and others around the region to continue their seasons. Both teams will pick up their seasons again in the spring.