The atmosphere of the girls rugby team is one of camaraderie and school spirit, despite the fact that rugby is one of the two club sports not directly affiliated with T.C. sports. Rugby and ice hockey are the official T.C. club sports.
Crew, a former club sport, is now becoming a Virginia High School League (VHSL) sponsored sport due to the large participation.
Rugby is also witnessing a jump in participation numbers from previous years. As the participation in rugby increases, many players, coaches and supporters are wondering if or when rugby will become a VHSL sponsored sport.
The VHSL recognizes sports based on participation numbers and relevance in the community. The minimum participation number is 250 people, and the sport must also have written consent from its School Board to become a VHSL sport. As a VHSL sponsored sport certain guidelines must be met by all involved.
The players must uphold good sportsmanship and fulfill certain non-sports related duties in the community and at school.
Sports such as lacrosse, basketball, football, tennis, swim and dive, cross country, volleyball, golf, gymnastics, wrestling, indoor and outdoor track, baseball, field hockey, soccer, cheerleading and softball have fulfilled those requirements and are recognized by the VHSL. A VHSL sponsored sport receives funding from the state and the school to provide for transportation, practice space, equipment, and necessary services.
The regulations and participation requirements associated with the VHSL have led to the development of club sports, such as rugby. This year, the rugby players have expressed the desire to use the school trainer with the same rate of efficiency as the VHSL sponsored sports. Currently, their main source of aid is the school nurse.
“These kids love to tackle each other without any protection on and they get hurt. It’s a little bit too rough without proper protection,” said T.C. Williams School Nurse Nancy Runton. However, both professional and amateur rugby is played without protective gear.
The players would also like to hear their accomplishments broadcast on the morning or afternoon announcements.
“I just want some respect from the school. They give us a hard time for no reason,” said senior rugby player, Marjorie Obeng.
The girls rugby team laments the fact that their hard work is not recognized by the school. Many members of the team have stated that they wish they had more privileges that club sports do not receive since they are not school sponsored.
“It’s kind of a pain just cause we don’t get the same benefits like buses and field guarantees,” said rugby coach Mike Colesanti.
Like any other sport, the players would also like to have student support at games encouraged by the administration.
“Rugby is a culture. We’re more about playing and understanding the game [and not just winning],” said Obeng.
In all sports at T.C., sportsmanship and team camaraderie is prevalent. The rugby team shares meals with their opponents after games and remembers to “leave it on the field,” said junior rugby player, Lauren Gustafason.
While rugby participation has spiked, Athletic Director Stephen Colantuoni has said that the qualifications for VHSL status are not a problem within T.C., but in the Virginia area. There are not enough rugby teams in the Patriot District to comprise a VHSL sponsored sport.
“It’s kind of like the economic world: supply and demand,” said Colantouni.
While the Patriot District may not have recognized rugby yet, the players only want to be recognized by the school.
“You can’t really label it [unless] you get to know it. It’s teamwork,” said Obeng. “It’s targeted towards being a team sport [and] everyone adds something.”
Lora Strum also contributed to this article.