If I could offer one tip for the future, playing rugby would be it. The long-term
benefits of playing rugby have been proved by ruggers world-wide.
The rest of my advice, however, has no basis more reliable than my own rugby-playing,
rugby-living experience (brief as that may be). I will dispense with the B.S. to you now.
Enjoy the play you get while you are young and injury-free. Oh never mind. You will not
understand the pleasure and luxury of your youth until you've busted your nose,
separated your shoulder, and torn your ACL.
Trust me, with a few years under your belt, and after a few years on the pitch, you'll
look back to pictures of yourself, and you'll recall in a way you cannot possibly grasp
now - how great you actually felt after playing a whole game, and how fabulous your face
and legs really looked (once upon a time). You are not as old as you think you are.
You just feel it. Welcome to rugby.
Don't worry about your future health. Or worry, but know that worrying while you
continue playing is about as effective as trying to score a try while successfully running
out the back of the try zone without touching the ball down. The real troubles in your
health's life are apt to be the things that never crossed your worried mind, but which tackle
you at 2:00 pm in the second half of a game on a Saturday afternoon.
At least once a season, volunteer to play a position that scares the crap out of you.
Don't be dangerous with other teams' line-out jumpers. Definitely do NOT put up with
teams who are dangerous with yours.
Don't waste your time playing dirty. Sometimes you're on the top of the pile of bodies,
sometimes' you're on the bottom. The game is 80 minutes long, and in the end, if someone
raked you, either you or one of your teammates was able to hit them hard enough to hurt
at least once by game's end.
Remember the constructive criticism you receive. Forget the griping that goes on the field.
(Chugging a lot of beer right after the game usually helps with the latter).
Keep your old playbooks. Throw out your old CIPP cards.
Don't feel guilty if you don't know what the hell you're doing for the first couple of years
you're playing. The most knowledgeable rugby players didn't know what the hell they were
doing when they started out. The most honest of the most knowledgeable ones admit they
still don't know everything about playing the game.
Take plenty of Advil.
Be kind to your knees ... and your shoulders ... and your arms ... and your neck ... and,
well, everything else. You'll miss them when they stop working like they should.
Maybe you'll be a forward, maybe you'll be a back. Maybe CIPP will one day be an easy
process, maybe it won't. Maybe you'll get suckered into being president for your team,
and maybe your contribution will just be to be the anchor of your team's boat race crew.
Whatever you do, don't grow too complacent, and always give it your best shot.
Remember any team can beat any other team on any given day. But remember the reverse
is true: any team can lose to any other team, as well.
Enjoy your body. Wait a minute, scratch that - you play rugby. Abuse it.
Don't be afraid of what people think of it ... wait a minute scratch THAT - you play rugby -
such fear doesn't exist (come on we've all seen enough ruggers walking around in just
sports bras to know that's true).
Dance - even if you're a forward and don't think you're as cute as the backs.
Get to know your front row. You never know when they'll get hurt or retire. Be nice to
your teammates. They're the only ones to whom you never have to explain WHY
you're playing this sport.
Understand that players of all abilities will come and go, but when they do come out,
treat them all like you never want them to go (they may actually stay). Work hard to retain
rookies, because the more you get to stay around, the more people you have to keep your
team from folding, and the more people who will call you by name when you retire.
If you're a back, play with the forwards at least once, and leave when you've run a game in
their boots. If you're a forward play with the backs just once, and leave when your really
appreciate how hard it is to catch some speed-demon in the open field.
Always be willing to play more than one position.
Accept certain inalienable truths: the ref doesn't care what you think really happened,
Jos Bergmann will kick for points and usually make them, and you too, will get older and
slower; and when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, refs would listen to
your arguments, Jos would miss more than she would make, and the young players liked
having old and slow players on the field - never minding that an old player missed a tackle
because they couldn't get there. When you were young, you knew to respect your old girls.
Respect the old girls.
Don't bad mouth the administrators - on any level. Remember, most are volunteers trying
to make things run smoothly. They do more stuff that you don't know about so that all you
have to do is show up, pay dues, and play. Remember if it seemed like a pain in the ass to get
your information together so you could play in a tournament, try and imagine trying to collect
everyone's information, organize it, and process it.
Don't expect anyone else to pick you up when you're down. Maybe you'll have teammates who
will always bolster you up. Maybe you'll have a coach that always inspires you. The bottom line
is - maybe you won't have these things, and this is up to YOU to dig deep, to play hard, and
to play with heart.
Don't 'dis the players who wear scrum-caps. They're just trying to save what's left of their grey matter.
Be careful about choosing sides when an "issue" comes up on your team. Be aware that sides
can develop. If they do - remember the truth is always somewhere in the middle, and if you let
the truth be known, the sides' issues become moot points, and you all can just get on with why
you're here - to play rugby. But do remember that dealing with the rest of the "stuff" is as much
a part of being on a team, as just taking the field together.
You'll get bruised, you'll get sore, but you'll also get slaps on the back. You'll become part of a whole.
So trust me about playing rugby ... it's worth it.
The preceding was composed by Kristin "Mac" McCarthy, President of the Philadelphia Women's Rugby Football Club. One of her players forwarded it out to the women's rugby email discussion group, and it quickly become a part of rugby lore.