This past November I received an email from Martha Daines, the head of the Women’s collegiate All American squad, stating that I had been invited to an All American Camp in January. Conveniently, it was located in Florida! I immediately texted my coach and had a discussion with him about what to do. He informed me that Martha had contacted him asking about any “up and coming players” and asked him to send them her way. I was one of those. I remember sitting in shock. At that point I had been playing rugby for probably two and a half months and still didn’t know all the rules. The old Anne who stayed in her comfort zone would have immediately turned down the offer. But as I learned by making my decision to go to UNC (a school very much out of my comfort zone), pushing myself and my limits has always eventually turned out well for me as I end up learning invaluable information about myself and the world around me.
Last week was the camp. I had weightlifted and done cardio (including an awful fitness test called the death flop once a week) 5 times a week and had tried to get as much skill work as possible in. As with any athlete, I felt like there was always more I could have done. Not to mention, I found an article listing the height and weight of each of the players. My mom joked after seeing the article that I should start writing my will now. Not to mention, both the 15s and 7s national teams would be there as well. My size and my inexperience quickly came to the forefront of my thoughts.
I arrived with my parents. Of course, they couldnt just drop me off and leave. No.. they had to walk me into the facility I was staying at and hang around long enough for me to run into the few people I knew. Ironically the girl who originally recruited me to play rugby was at the camp with the national 7s team. Another UNC teammate of mine was there as well with the All Americans (THANK GOD).
My experience at this camp was surreal but I am reminded daily that it happened by the aches and bruises that remain (did i mention i am also sick now?). There were times of frustration even to the point of tears but there were also times of laughter and pure joy. It’s a sport of conflicts. both internal and external. Many times I asked myself why I was doing this only to find that a new question arose: why should I not?
Things I was reminded of at camp:
size is not all that matters in rugby.
patience is wonderful.
I can’t compare myself to others.
ice baths are cold (especially when taken outside in the cold)
there is another level of soreness
your ear can get torn (not a personal experience, just witnessed it)
no matter how many times you get pushed to the ground (literally), you can get back up (also, literally)
it’s okay to ask questions, sometimes others are thinking the same thing
have fun or stop.
“the death flop” is named that for the reason
we all need a little inspiration
people are good. wonderful actually.
Florida winters are a joke (thankfully)
Being vegetarian and a rugby player can be seen as a contradiction
if you act like you know what you are doing, people may not notice that you dont really know
(no one had a clue I had only been playing for four months until I told a few, including the coach, on the second to last day)
mouthguards are crucial and uncomfortable and make you sound like you’re speaking gibberish
inspiration has to come from within, you can’t teach it or coach it
goals, both big and small, are powerful and necessary
focus on your strengths but develop your weaknesses
always. stay. positive. no. matter. what.
Embarrassing story: There were four people who played scrumhalf at the camp, including me. One of the three had played for 10 years… another for six.. and another for five. Four months seems like an eye blink in comparison. Our coach was trying to make a point about positioning and asked us all to throw a pass to a teammate standing fairly far back. One by one, they each got up and threw a pass. Most of them were perfect. My turn. As i was walking up, I made a comment saying she was going to have to scoot in because I couldnt throw that far. Everyone laughed along with me even though I was being completely serious. Not only, could i barely get in the right position to throw due to the fact I was incredible sore but I hadn’t thrown this type of pass for probably a month (which is one fourth of the amount of time I have been playing). Bottom line, my pass barely cleared the ground and fell at the feet of the teammate I was passing too. I knew I could do better. I was embarrassed. I asked for another shot. same result. (definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting different results). I wanted to cry right then and there but I didnt. I shrugged my shoulders and said “well, i tried”. I got pats on the back and a couple “keep your head up, kid”. But no one knew I had barely been playing before this. In the next drill, I cried to myself off to the side. No one saw. No one needed to see. That moment challenged me more than any of the physical tasks I had to do. I had to choose to keep going despite myself. despite my weaknesses. despite my (very hurt) pride. despite what other people thought of me. despite what i thought of myself. i had to choose to keep playing and practicing and giving my all. and i did. and it was worth it.
funny story: As i was going through the lunch line at the camp, a couple huge forward 15s players stood behind me waiting to get their food. Not only did I make the mistake of making them wait longer for their long desired food but I confessed to the food servers that I was vegetarian right in front of them. Needless to say, I was given every reason not to be vegetarian in a span of 30 seconds. Despite their logic and their scary size, I am proud to say I am still going strong. for now.
Overall, the experience was invaluable. Will I be an All American? Not this year. But who knows what the future holds. I have a long career ahead of me. But the experience to walk among the greats of women’s rugby was priceless and an honor. How did I get so lucky?