On March 19, the College reinstated both the women’s and men’s rugby teams, allowing the two teams to hold practice and recruit new team members.
The College suspended the two teams in October, citing concerns about the teams’ high injury rates. The two teams have since rewritten their respective constitutions with a clear understanding of safety and well-being as a significant focus, according to assistant athletic director Justin Newell.
Additionally, Newell and Grant Wallace, head golf coach and assistant building coordinator for intramural and club sports, asked each team to create positions for two safety officers that would be first aid and CPR certified, in addition to carrying a medical kit to all practices and games.
“Our goal was obviously to be reinstated, and I think there is an evolution of rugby as a club sport in college that led to these changes,” Maya Waldstreicher ’19, president of the women’s team, said. “I understood the decision [to implement changes to the team], but we were sad to see our [fall] season end early.”
For the time being, the College has restricted the two programs to non-contact practices that will “allow for the continuity of culture as well as recruitment of players,” Newell said.
These non-contact practices will continue for the duration of the spring semester, a requirement from the College that mirrors national legislation at the Division III level for football in the non-traditional season.
“We cannot rely on the way rugby was played 30 or so years ago,” Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 said. “The game has evolved, so we need to evolve with it.”
Bonham said the teams asked for what she characterized as a “preparatory season” so that they would be able to play at full strength for the fall season.
Waldstreicher believes there may be some positives to take away from a non-contact practice season. “We’re hoping that the lack of contact might help us focus more on the fundamentals and basics of the game and help us become more skilled as a team,” Waldstreicher said. The men’s rugby team did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The College will try to find a part-time coach for the teams before the start of the fall season, when the teams will be free to play in games and have full-intensity practices.
Bonham is unsure whether the College will hire a coach for each team or one coach for both.
There is precedent for a part-time coach for a club sport, as the College has two part-time coaches for the equestrian team. The College is working with the students on the rugby teams to find a coach that has the attributes that teams value, according to Newell.
“Part of our intention in suspending operations of the rugby team was to help drive change in the club rugby network,” Newell said. “Our message has always been that we need to be leaders in change to protect the athlete.”
Looking to next season, Waldstreicher has high hopes for the women’s team’s potential for success.
The team was undefeated prior to their suspension on Oct. 6.