FIU women’s rugby club: a family on and off the field

FIU's women’s rugby club’s players and coaches in a team photo. Photo courtesy of Danielle Leon.

Jaymz Cosme | Staff Writer

Getting tackled might not seem like a family-type thing, but for Women’s Rugby at FIU, it’s what keeps them close.

Established in 2009, the club was formed to provide an instant and active bond among women on campus. Their top priority is to create a sense of family among each other, as they spend time together on and off the field to further grow their bonds. 

At first glance, rugby may not be the most obvious place to cultivate such bonds, given its tough and physical nature as a sport. However, it’s abundantly clear that with their shared experiences on the field, they formed unbreakable bonds that go far beyond the sport itself.

On the field, the physicality of the game requires trust and support between teammates. Creating a deep sense of unity, players rely on each other in order to stay safe and find success while playing. 

The journey of forming these unbreakable bonds often begins with simply joining the club. Not everyone who signs on at first knows the game, though.  

One of the key features of FIU’s women’s rugby club is the welcoming and inclusive environment it has cultivated. New members are quickly embraced and provided with the necessary guidance to learn and enjoy the sport.

As club president Azariah Rodriguez aptly puts it, “A lot of people that come here, we teach them everything they need to know.” 

Willing and able to guide newcomers, they are not only introduced to the game but are integrated into the team’s culture.

Rugby, in its essence, is a physical team sport that is played with an oval-shaped ball. The primary objective is to score points by either carrying the ball across the opponent’s goal line or kicking it through their goalpost. 

Clips from multiple FIU women’s rugby club’s practices and games. Video courtesy of Danielle Leon.

Its physically demanding nature is immediately apparent, with two teams engaging in intense battles to prevent each other from advancing with the ball. A combination of grit and teamwork lies at the heart of what makes rugby a sport that builds strong relationships.

Embracing the strenuous day-to-day process, these women put in countless hours of work to grow the sport in the community.

“I’m definitely glad there is a women’s rugby club because I think rugby is very male-dominated,” said Azariah. “Having a women’s team gives the opportunity for them to come out and see what the sport is about, spreading knowledge about rugby and trying to grow the sport in South Florida.” 

Their recruitment efforts begin on campus, as some players recount stories of being recruited in various places such as the gym. This approach ensures that the club is open to a diverse range of people who may not have initially considered rugby as their sport of choice.

“The girls that come out here have previous athletic experience,” said junior Sophia Wright, the co-captain of the club.

Many members of the club come with prior sporting experience, with many having participated in flag football, soccer, track, or weightlifting. Their desire to stay active and engaged in sports is what drew them to and kept them in the sport

Transitioning into rugby is about more than just learning the game: it’s about embracing a new community and opportunity. The bonds formed on the rugby field extend into friendships that go well beyond the pitch. 

Through shared victories and defeats, mutual encouragement and collective experiences create a sense of belonging and unity that is second to none.

Along with teaching the fundamentals and practicing, they compete on select Saturdays with clubs from other universities in Florida. Looking to grow the popularity of women’s rugby, they clash with their opponents and build mutual respect among competitors. 

Inter-university competitions complement the learning experience within a rugby club. It provides a holistic and challenging platform for players to hone their skills, develop character, and contribute to the broader growth of the sport. 

The competitive aspect adds a unique dimension to the club’s activities compared to other clubs on campus. Women’s rugby opens a pathway for players to excel and make a lasting impact on both the local scene and the broader sports community.

Always accepting new members, Azariah concluded her interview with PantherNOW by saying: “If you are a girl and you are trying to get active on campus, I would say joining women’s rugby is a good option.”

Follow Jaymz Cosme on X: @JaymzCosme

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