The 30 team members constituting the UVU women’s rugby team have defied stereotypes on and off the field since 2004. Not only did the Division II team earn an undefeated fall 2011 season, they also returned home boasting first place and a tournament MVP in the Collegiate Division of the annual Champagne Classic in San Diego last weekend.
Playing full-contact with standards identical to those of the men’s version of the sport, the women’s rugby team practices three days each week with the men’s team, sharing volunteer coaches Clint Wilson and David Ledward. The women also host regular fundraisers, matched dollar-for-dollar by UVU, to pay tournament and travel fees.
Albeit a high turnover rate due to dating and marriage allure, the team has managed to stay on top of its goal: winning.
Louise Karlsson, 29-year-old team secretary and veteran team member from Sweden, explained the characteristic Utah County difficulties the young team faces.
“It’s really hard to retain women – they start dating and they deem it more important. If a guy says he wants to hang out tonight, you have to prioritize,” Karlsson said.
While many of its members carry strong soccer, softball and basketball backgrounds, there exist opportunities for women of all physical backgrounds and therein, Karlsson said, lies rugby’s appeal.
“From faster, skinnier girls to slower, stronger girls, rugby has a position for every single type of girl. Weight isn’t an issue. There’s always a specialty,” Karlsson said.
Karlsson also noted the “mind-opening” experiences on the field, citing the game an “excellent place for different cultures to intermingle and to build character and strength.” The team is also constantly recruiting new members and hoping to draw more freshmen in order to build a consistent leadership base.
Karlsson has enjoyed her experience with the team so much that upon graduation from UVU with a nursing degree, she plans to return to Sweden to try out for its national team. Although Karlsson admitted that practicing and competing is time-consuming, she also pointed out the rarity of being able to go to national playoffs for a university and her dedication to the game at present.
“This is my moment. Rugby is my moment. I’m giving it my all.”