Who Runs This Mother?

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

In 1977, Alissa Augello became the first women’s rugby administrator. ‘Jello’, a college student with access to a mimeograph machine, became the first director of the Women’s Committee, the first organizing body of women’s rugby. Jello was the first in a long line of women who took on the thankless job of pushing and pulling women’s rugby forward. We are forever indebted to them for their competent leadership.

When building the panel for the 2021 Conference Players Gotta Play, Leaders Gotta Lead we had our choice of a number of talented, deserving individuals. We did our best to choose individuals we felt represented the complexity of the current women’s rugby scene. Today, there are multiple organizations representing a broad range of constituencies, an NGB struggling to keep its head above water and, oh yea, a global pandemic. The individuals who have taken on the job of organizing, educating, advocating, and leading deserve our thanks and the occasional offer of, “what can I do to help?”

We asked our panelists to weigh in on 2 questions specific to their organizing area (club, referee, college, high school, youth):

  • What do you believe is the most important ‘new’ addition to the women’s rugby organizing scene? Why?

  • What can we expect to see in the next 2-3 years as a result of this organizing or reorganizing?

Here are their answers, which are just a preview to what you can learn from their session at the 2021 WRCRA Conference on April 9 and 11.

Kat Aversano

I first met Kat Aversano at the 2019 WRCRA conference. She approached me with an offer to lead the USWRF women’s rugby history project. Kat is an archivist, historian, lawyer, coach and administrator so it's an understatement to say that the History Project is flourishing. We chose Kat for this panel based on her work on the Board of Directors for USA Youth and High School Rugby. Kat is the Southeast Regional Director, which means she is responsible for the general communication, troubleshooting, and coordination of the south east states. She is part of USAY and HSR and USAR efforts with the SYROs of the SE. She’s the Youth and High School representative to the USAR Nominations Committee and the DEI Committee. She’s the Chair, USAY and HSR Nominations Committee, the EIA Committee and the Girls Growth Working Group. In addition to holding grassroots administrative roles in Maryland and Virginia rugby, she coaches the Fort Hunt High School and Middle School Girls and NOVA Women’s senior Club.

For Youth and High School that’s hard to say. Girls’ participation in rugby has taken a big hit due to COVID. The lack of in-person school has had a big effect on the ability of current players to recruit friends to come play rugby. What is really needed is for more women especially ex- or current Sr. club women’s players to serve as coaches and administrators for local girls teams and to seek out decision-making positions at the SYRO (State Youth Rugby Organization) level. Out of 46 SYROs only 9-10 have women in top leadership positions (President/Executive Director) and some of these are merely ‘figure-head’ positions.

In the next 2-3 years we need to get High School players focused on pursuing rugby as a legitimate college sport. We need them to have the same enthusiasm for collegiate rugby as they do for softball or soccer. We also need to recruit younger girls for tag and flag rugby. I hope for the following:

  • Continued expansion of NIRA/NCAA Women’s rugby initiative. It is impacting the interest of High School girls and I believe encouraging them to focus on rugby.

  • But also I hope that we are able to grow interest in the game through touch and flag rugby programs (like Girls Rugby Inc). Not all girls are ready for full contact, and we have to find a way to keep them engaged until they are ready.

  • By focusing on these two areas we are creating a kind of sandwich approach to youth and high school rugby.

Lauren Barber

One of the hardest working women in rugby, Lauren Barber is the Head Coach of the Washington Loggers High School Girls Select-Side, Recruitment Director for the Seattle Rugby Club, working group member for the USA Youth and High School organization, and Vice Chair of the Rugby Washington Board. Prior to that she was the Youth Program Manager and a Coach for Atavus Rugby and Youth Coord