By Becky Schreiber
Becky is a Content Coordinator and Writer for Hampden Neighbors, Cumberland Valley Silver Living, BVMSports.com, Best Version Media.
Many adults can look back at their childhood and remember with fondness the countless hours of playing on a sports team. Whether it was basketball, baseball, football, track, or wrestling, those early years of life can be filled with hours upon hours of practice, team building, and intense drills. Sometimes the love for your sport continues on to college and even into clubs.
Then there are those out there who take the extra step of compiling those incredible lessons and hard work and finding a way to pass it on. This is exactly what Head Coach Jenn Stratton has been able to do. After years of playing rugby at Penn State and with the Harrisburg Women’s Rugby Club, Stratton has turned her talents toward the high school girls, by re-establishing the CV [Cumberland Valley] Girls Rugby Club.
“You know, I stopped playing my own season in the fall of 2021. I started thinking about what would I do next. I knew reffing wasn’t my jam. After some serious thinking, I came up with the crazy idea of re-starting the club back up,” begins Stratton.
CV Girls Rugby originally started in 2004 and ran its course for about 10 years. “For very understandable reasons, the club fizzled out. The group had trouble getting coaches and honestly, there just wasn’t enough interest at that time. People had other things to invest their time in,” shared Jenn.
Jenn was no stranger to rugby clubs. Over the years she has participated in various positions such as the Board of Director, Rugby PA, Board of Director & Chair, Medical & Safety Committee, National Collegiate Rugby (NCR), as well as the Past President, Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union
Jenn also had another advantage, she wasn’t the only rugby fan within her family. Her husband, Scott Stratton, a teacher at Mechanicsburg, had coached for Shippensburg Women's Rugby for 11 years. His team had won 2 national championships. “He really is an amazing resource. He understands the sport and the behind-the-scenes work that it takes to run a club,” she continues.
Still, it was crucial and meaningful to Jenn to have an all-female coaching staff. “They so rarely exist within the rugby community. I think it is important for growing female leaders to see and learn from what is possible.”
So Jenn turned to the women she had played with in the past. “It just seemed natural for me to find coaches from the women I’ve worked and played with.”
Carla Angleberger, Jessica Sipe, and Joanna Ferguson rounded out the coaching staff. “It’s a great network of women. We are still feeling things out, figuring out our systems and what works. But the collaboration we’ve had so far has been amazing,” Jenn says smiling.
The coaches were very intentional with the reconstruction of the club. Taking their time to evaluate what would work best in this area. By August 2022, they officially started the club and played in 7s-variation series tournaments.
As with other sports, Rugby has two different variations that teams can play. The 7s variation
literally means that you have a team of 7 players against another team of 7 for 7-minute halves (14-minute games). This spring, CV Girls Rugby will move into a 15s-variation series, where 15 players a side will engage in rugby for 35-minute halves (70-minute games).
February 19 starts the beginning of the spring season. “Right now we have about 40 girls interested in playing this season. It’s an aggressive contact sport so we will see if all 40 girls decide if this is the right fit for them,” continues Stratton.
This year's goals are to get the girls familiar with contact, with the laws of the game, and to build team confidence so that players can trust each other. From there, they know that respect and closeness will carry through both on and off the field.
“Rugby is a sport where you develop leadership skills as well as athletic skills, whether you are 5 or 50. It really is dynamic with how you can play this game at any age.”
The timing of the CV Girls Rugby reboot is perfect. The US is hosting the Women and Men’s Rugby World Cups in 2031 and 2033. “Think about it. It’s these girls that are coming out of high school in the next few years. You never know of the chances one of the girls could have.”
“Rugby is one of the fastest-growing sports in the US. There is so much opportunity especially for girls right now. Girl's rugby is an NCAA emerging sport with lots of colleges out there developing their own programs as well as scholarships. It’s a blossoming sport,” she excitedly shares.
For Jenn, rugby has been such a fun opportunity. She’s traveled all over the country and even to England. For CV Girls Rugby and the upcoming season, the coaches and girls will travel within the state and maybe even into Maryland. It seems there are endless opportunities in this sport and for the re-established club.
For more information about CV Girls Rugby, please contact Coach Jenn Stratton at email@example.com.