Lessons Learned: The goal in rugby is to have each other’s back

Dylan Herbert/The Occidental

Loving, chaotic and dedicated. Three words I would use to describe my college rugby team. I’ve always been one for close contact, but never contact sports. That is, not until I found this crazy group of people who took on the challenge of raising $30,000 without help as though it was a simple task. Well, maybe not simple, but certainly achievable. Oxy Womxn’s Rugby has shown me what it truly means to be part of a united team, including the drama and heartbreak and love that come with it.

It all started four years ago before the pandemic hit, when the rugby team went to Ireland. The two or three fifth-year-seniors leftover from the trip that year pushed the e-board to hold on to that unity and try an international trip again. Last Fall, our e-board was sneaky enough to hide for a few months their plan of sending 20-25 people to London. Now, we are sending 31 players and 3 coaches. It was never intended to be an easy organization process, but they set out anyway.

I joined the rugby team in September 2022, having no idea this is what I was getting myself into. However, when I heard my presidents, Kaiah Callahan and Ellie McKinney, speak about it in nervous, shaky voices a mere four months before the trip was intended, I was thrilled and felt even more fulfilled by the ambition of the group I was now part of. The deal was that in order to pull this off, everyone had to help out and commit themselves to a lot of rugby in the next few months.

Here was the plan: every person needed to organize one fundraiser. It seemed simple enough, but was tricky considering how quickly the trip was approaching. We were looking at a fundraiser everyday of the week for the first half of spring semester. In addition to our personal fundraising, the trip relied heavily on generous donations from branches of players’ families and friends. We started a Give Campus that reached 79 donors and nearly capped our $25,000 goal, totaling at $24,135.

As with fundraising for any large scale trip, there have been hiccups. Here we are, four months later, one week left until our trip, six concussions deep, but still more ready than we could have ever anticipated. In the many conversations I have had with my teammates and captains, it has been a stressful process of keeping track of everyone’s responsibilities. Regardless, we made it through with a stronger understanding of responsibility and commitment than when we started.

With such generous contributions from donors, we are in a comfortable place and our trip is confirmed. We have room to be flexible and pay for extra group activities during the trip. We continue to have fundraisers and each player flying with us is still obligated to one event, but primarily for the principle of group work and unity, rather than out of financial necessity. With the responsibility of raising money on their own, each player learns how to take initiative and think on our feet.

Rugby is physically and emotionally intensive, requiring us to know each other and trust each other deeply to play efficiently. We need to have each others’ backs on and off the field. Not only will we be able to learn from professional women’s rugby teams in London, we will have had such a unique college club sport experience that brings us closer as a community.

Our coach, Malek Moazzam-Doulat, always tells us to have each others backs in a game. If you don’t protect your teammate, you are betraying the team. This mindset got us to London. Before we are even able to participate in tournaments or put our skills on the field, we must trust each other. That is what this trip is for. I hope to see us come out the other side with new crazy experiences and even more love for each other. Sports teams are created with competition, an impenetrable trait I have felt in nearly every other team I have been part of in my life. But here, with these people, I feel the opposite. There is no need to be the best or the strongest when we know success wouldn’t be possible without each other.

I admire our leadership for embarking on this once upon a pipe dream turned reality. This year has been full of new commitments and dedications, including joining a competitive league for the first time in the years since lockdown, and no part of it came easily. The fact that we are still standing strong and adding new people to the team shows how uplifting and supportive my teammates are. Hopefully, we will return from London with even more love and even less injuries. This was no easy feat, but we made it.


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