Updated: May 23, 2021
By Jenn Heinrich
Co-Founder and CEO, Girls Rugby, Inc.
So much has happened in the nine months since we rolled out our first Girls Rugby pilot programs in the Greater Portland (OR), Greater Denver, (CO) and Greater San Diego (CA) areas.
Making Strides Last Fall
At the end of our pilot season we had 120 girls and 35 coaches and referees participating in girls-only flag rugby programs. Of those girls, 80% of them were brand new to rugby and, according to their exit surveys, are now hooked on the game! They touted the positive culture, opportunity to learn new skills, make new friends, and FUN as a few of the reasons why they will be back.
During the fall pilot season our Girls Rugby Colorado program hit the lottery when our players were given the opportunity to run out of the tunnel during a competition break at the first stop of the Women’s HSBC Sevens Series in Glendale. Our players had a chance to wow the crowd with their new skills, see themselves (in awe) on the jumbotron, and rub elbows with their rugby heroes throughout the weekend. We made some incredible memories and there were smiles for miles!
Springing into Spring
This spring we continued to run programs in our pilot areas, successfully rolled out a new location in Ohio with the support of Lee Pulver and Rugby Ohio, and cultivated new partnerships to support our plans for continued expansion into new markets in September 2019. We are encouraged by the number of new players finding rugby through our program and are proud that after the spring season, our numbers now represent over 20% of all girls registered to play in the Rookie Rugby category with USA Rugby.
Lightning struck again this spring for our Colorado program when they had the opportunity to once again connect with their heroes through the US Women’s National Team vs. Barbarians FC match. We kicked things off at the final Girls Rugby Colorado spring practice which saw members of both the USA and Barbarians teams come out to meet the players, play games with them, take pictures, and sign autographs. On match day, in a display that connected our present with our future, the US Women’s National Team members were escorted to the field for the national anthems by players from local Girls Rugby teams. At halftime, our Girls Rugby players were able to shine once again in front of a packed stadium who cheered the next generation on as they connected passes, evaded “tackles,” and scored trys for all to see on the jumbotron. In a word, AWESOME!
Looking to the Future
Next up, we’re looking forward to rolling out summer camps that will provide girls in grades 2 thru 8 with an opportunity to get the Girls Rugby experience in camp format. We’ll also be at the Super Series in San Diego, connecting our players with some of the best of the best in women’s rugby, bringing to life the idea that if you can see it, you can be it. We’re looking forward to this summer success taking us into new locations this coming fall.
We remain passionately committed to our mission to provide access for girls to learn vital skills and core values such as leadership, empowerment, achievement, respect, and sportsmanship all while enjoying the experience of playing all-girls, non-contact rugby. Knowing that currently 1 in 3 girls are afraid to lead, we want to change the way girls see themselves as leaders and help build the confidence they need to thrive on and off the field. We are already seeing positive changes. We wrapped up our Girls Rugby Ohio program last week and a mom posted the following on our Girls Rugby Ohio Facebook page:
“Thank you to all involved with making this program possible!!! Remi lacked self-confidence and had a fear of all things new and because of the strong women and a few men leading this program she now faces every day with her head held high and a pep in her step!!! I’m so excited for the next season to begin and I am eager to see the growth in Remington both mentally and physically.”
It takes a Village
As we reflect on where we are now, we have much to be grateful for including the incredible coaches, referees, and mentors who deliver our programming, our local sponsors and partners, and our National Partners. Every one of these individuals and businesses took a chance on us, believed in what we were trying to accomplish and have been integral to our early success. We would like to extend a special thank you and recognize our National Partners - USA Rugby, World Rugby Shop, and The Pickle Juice Company - as well as The US Women’s Rugby Foundation for their generous grant.
Girls Rugby, Inc.
Girls Rugby empowers girls to reach their potential through rugby by offering non-contact flag rugby programming paired with a values-based curriculum for girls in grades 2-8. To learn more about Girls Rugby programming across the country, please visit girlsrugbyinc.com/programs
All photos provided by Girls Rugby, Inc.