Womxn’s Rugby returns from first trip abroad since the pandemic

women's rugby london
Courtesy of Anna Knight

The Occidental Womxn’s Rugby Team headed to London over spring break after a successful months-long fundraising campaign. Co-president of the team Ellie McKinney (senior) said the club ultimately raised about $40,000 through a combination of donations and selling anything they could think to sell on the quad. McKinney said the team’s leadership wanted to make the trip as accessible as possible.

“We decided to make the cost as low as possible and have everyone help fundraise. The expectation was that to go on the trip you have to organize your own fundraiser,” McKinney said. “So that’s why for the weeks before spring break, there was a rugby fundraiser three times a week.”

Emily Wills (sophomore) said she was touched by the support Womxn’s Rugby received from the Occidental community.

“So many people supported us every step of the way,” Wills said. “It was a long process of planning and fundraising and all of that, but it was so cool to see so many different people coming together to make this happen for us.”

women's rugby london
Emily Wills (sophomore) and Ellie McKinney (senior) in the Quad at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. March 24, 2023. Max Eve/The Occidental

Making the trip to London was important for multiple reasons, according to McKinney. She said one of those reasons was setting a precedent so that it is easier for rugby and other Occidental athletic teams to participate in international trips.

“The team had gone to Dublin in the year 2019, the year before I was a freshman. I really wanted to take the team on an international trip again, but we needed to do it now,” McKinney said. “Otherwise, we would lose the people who had done rugby before COVID and their knowledge about how to make an international trip happen.”

Anna Knight (first year) said she was excited about the opportunity to build a closer community with her teammates while in London.

“I went into it excited to get to know more people on the team and really understand rugby,” Knight said. “People say it’s as much a physical sport as it is a social sport, and I found that to be so true. I feel like we all became much more of a unit than we were before.”

women's rugby london
Courtesy of Anna Knight

Wills said she was amazed by how much of a rugby culture there is in London, and how important the sport is to people there.

“We went and toured Twickenham Stadium, which is the biggest rugby stadium in the world,” Wills said. “And they have the World Rugby Museum inside of that. There were a lot of really cool opportunities like that which we couldn’t do in the U.S.”

McKinney said the trip was an amazing opportunity for the team to gain a greater appreciation for the sport and an understanding of the camaraderie that exists both on and off the field.

“I think the team really saw how rugby is a really unique sport in a way that even I didn’t really realize,” McKinney said. “When we were on the tour of the stadium our tour guide was talking about how at Twickenham Stadium, which is an 80,000-person venue, they only have one police officer present because rugby fans don’t fight with each other. The culture is that you root for your team, and then you go and get a drink with your opponent afterwards.”

McKinney said she was happy to see such positive similarities between the team culture at Occidental and in London.

“We do socialize with the other teams we play [against] after our games, but to see that [it is] global and that it’s really unique to rugby was a big goal of mine,” McKinney said. “I feel this was achieved.”

women's rugby london
Courtesy of Anna Knight

McKinney said she hopes the trip to London and all of the preparation for it has made it possible for international trips to become a part of Womxn’s Rugby tradition.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried it again in a few years,” McKinney said. “We have a folder in our Google Drive of every invoice, every document and every note we’ve taken. When the players who are first years now are seniors, we want them to be ready to go.”

Contact Eliza Kirk at ekirk@oxy.edu


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