Top row (left to right): Kasey Lane, Averie Riel, Nicole Snow, Caitlin De Bellis, and Stacey Annis
Bottom row (left to right): Giulia Deininger, Melissa Harris, Kate Marsh, Becky Raymond, and Sarah Butler
“I’ve learned from joining the rugby team that rugby is more than a game where everyone just beats the s**t out of each other; you’re one big family competing in a game you all love.” It was all I could do to hold back my laughter at Caitlin De Bellis’s response to my question: What have you gained from being part of the team?
Over the past few months myself, and several other girls, have worked to take on learning something new here at Paul Smith’s: the sport of rugby. What I knew was the bare minimum; there was a ball, a try zone, and lots of tackling. But I’ve learned through practice, videos, and readings that there is a lot of technique that goes into being a great player in this sport. I’ve also learned that rugby can teach you a lot about yourself.
Caitlin said that through this sport she has realized her own strength. Anyone can go to the gym and lift weights for hours and slowly be able to lift more and more, but strength is more than just muscle mass. “Never in any other game have I been tackled to the ground, flipped over, and pinned, only to be patted on the back and lifted up by the opponents,” says Caitlin. This past Saturday at the 2016 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Snow Rugby game, I saw Caitlin’s strength as she brushed herself off in the -20 degree weather and got back in the game after a solid tackle from the opposing team. I have also seen her strengths in practice as she communicates with teammates, runs a hard offense, and stands her ground in defensive drills.
Time and time again I have seen my teammates prove that we are a family dedicated to one another. They show up to practice after stressful days, to support one another. These women show respect for the coaches, the game, each other, and themselves. When one person is down, there are several there to help them up in and out of practice. We have also been shown support by the men who have come to practice with us, to learn from the coaches and to teach us what they have learned from rugby. While it may seem daunting at times to have the men around, it has done a lot to boost the confidence of many new players.
“The men are a lot bigger, a lot stronger, and know what they’re doing. But if I can beat them in drills, then I know I can hold my own against another girls’ team,” remarks Melissa Harris.
Melissa was one of the women who had some knowledge of the game when she joined the team, thanks to having played in a couple games before. She’s one of the seniors and though this may be her last semester, Melissa isn’t about to lose her chance to be part of a sport she has admired for years. Having been her warm-up partner in practices, I’ve seen her skills grow, seen her develop new techniques to suit her size when taking on larger opponents, and watched her open her home to the team when it came to game time on Saturday, offering a place to warm up before the parade.
There is one person who has shown our team so much support – from being club advisor; organizing team dinners and breakfasts; getting us the phenomenal coaches Baylee and Stacey Annis; and working as hard as we do in practice running the same drills, doing the same exercises. Rebi Romeo has walked away from practice with as many bruises as the players have. Romeo is not only a supporter of the women, but of the men too. She has driven many of them to the hospital during games, she opens her house to us, cooks for us, organizes meetings, helps us get connected with training videos, and so much more. The team could not be more appreciative of the support she has shown as a whole and as individuals.
Caitlin told me that when you join rugby, you aren’t acquiring teammates, you’re accepting new family members, and I couldn’t agree more. Like every family we have the comedians, the baby sister, the outrageously loud siblings, the klutz, the one who keeps everyone on track, and so on. But we still have plenty of room for more members. I know it may seem like a scary sport at times, but to be scared of something you don’t know is unfair. Yes there’s the possibility of injury, but that’s life. I’ve been told by girls, when I’ve approached about coming to a practice, that I wouldn’t want them there, but ladies you’re so wrong. I do want to see you all there. I want to see you having fun, making friends, learning to love something I love so much. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never played a sport. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the first thing about rugby, because neither did I. That didn’t stop me from trying. I mess up every day in practice, multiple times. I mess up plays, drop the ball, get confused, ask too many questions – but at the end of the night I always walk away feeling accomplished and happy, with my family at my side. We do want to see you there. We do want to throw the ball around with you during warm-ups, and we would love to show you how great this sport is, because it’s a beautiful thing, and it’s incomparable.
My name is Kate Marsh (many know me as Katie). I am a junior at Paul Smith’s College studying Natural Resource Management and Policy, and Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences. I have a deep love for winter and all that it has to offer. Growing up in New Hampshire, my favorite pastime was breaking trail on my first snowmobile, a 1995 440 Jag by Arctic Cat. It had no reverse and shoddy brakes, but that added to the adventure. I’m a member of the women’s rugby team here at PSC and want to welcome anyone interested in joining us for some fun, anytime.