I wrote this story about my former rugby team from Kent State University! in Ohio
As the sun shines over the rugby pitch at 11:00 in the morning, the Kent State Women’s Rugby team begins their trek out to the field. Their cleats crunching in the dry gravel that lays out the path, the girls walk over a tiny bridge and onto the newly wet grass from the morning’s dew.
The KSU Women’s rugby team, which has been an organization with the school since 1968, continues its season with a record of 3-3 after playing a tournament in Columbus. For this team, playing the sport is not just a way to get their aggression out in a healthy way, but it is also a community that brings these girls together. Melissa Inkrott, one of the team’s new head coaches this semester, says that when she played ultimate Frisbee it was nothing like the way the girls on the rugby team treated her.
“It truly is a family; these girls’ show interest in you,” Melissa Inkrott said. “They made you feel like it wasn’t about the sport.”
Jennifer Klase, current player, said this team is like no other, these girls however different they may be come together on and off the field.
“Definitely the closeness of the team.” Jennifer Klase said. “Everyone is so different yet on and off the field, we have a bond that holds us together.”
The team, which have extremely different fall and spring schedules are always working on training new rookies. Sometimes it can be very challenging for the players and especially the coaches. On April 18th, the women’s team played Oberlin College but lost to the team by two tri’s (goals). Inkrott feels like she had something to do with how poorly the girls played that day.
“I felt like I had failed as a coach,” Inkrott said. “I didn’t know what I was doing wrong with the girls, if I wasn’t explaining something right or what?”
Inkrott, along with several of the other veterans on the team, learned most of their rugby skills from Coach James Kaminsky. Kaminsky, who left to go to Washington D.C. for a job offer ,left a large task to the team. The girls had to find a new, better coach who knows what’s going on and who knows the team before the season starts. The team found that in Hope Peairs who had actually recruited Inkrott to the team her sophomore year of college. But after one semester of coaching, Peairs had to leave the team due to conflicts, and the KSU Women’s Rugby team found their new coaches in Inkrott and Kelly Yost. Beverly Doyle, a former player, says that even with the rapid change in coaching it hasn’t seemed to hurt the team yet.
“I think that the team is benefiting from it because coach Kaminsky was a good coach, but not all the girls on the team agreed with how he ran practice all the time,” Doyle said. “Now having alumni coaching, it makes it better because they know how we felt beforehand and we all love them.”
Anyone who walks by Manchester field can see how much effort and determination any of these players put into their practice. With new and old players coming in and out on a weekly basis, it almost seems hard to believe that Kent can keep a women’s team afloat. Losing at least 15 prospective players in the beginning weeks of training, they do make up for lost players by recruiting throughout the season.
“We lose 15 girls in the first couple of weeks in conditioning,” Inkrott said. “No one really wants to be a part of a team if all they are doing is conditioning.”
For current players, they do not seem to look at the loss of these prospective players the same way as the girls leaving do. Stephanie Warren, a sophomore at Kent and a student who attempted to play rugby, says that how the team functioned as a whole really affected who stayed and who did not.
“There were many separations in the team, nobody really wanted to converse with the new girls, they just kept to themselves.” Warren said. “I know for a fact that in doing that you can’t have team togetherness, what is the point of being a team that sets you up for failure? If team-building doesn’t begin on the first day, then there is no way that the team can grow into better players personally and as a group.”
Although the team has hit some rough patches with girls continuously coming and leaving they start to bond right away. Unlike what happened to Warren, the team, along with the entire Ohio women’s rugby community truly is a community. Inkrott says that it comes to a point where you play with these teams so much that you can call out a player for the other team by name. Many of the girls go as far as calling the team a family. Sarah Ferrato, another former player on team, say that the love that is shown between these girls is truly a big family.
“The camaraderie with this team is so much different,” Ferrato said. “In high school it was easier to be close with your team because you had the same classes with them every day and you had practice right after school 5 days a week.”
The team which has a 50-50 record, will be playing in a tournament called Prom on the Pitch, where the girls will dress up in used prom dresses and play against Akron and Oberlin.
A family, a network of girls, with the season coming to an end, the KSU Women’s rugby team can feel the summer air and freedom from practice.