Roanoke Women’s Rugby Club promotes empowerment and inclusion

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 3:53 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Men’s rugby in Roanoke has been for nearly 60 years, but recently a women’s rugby club has sprouted and grown. For women in the Star City, being part of the club is serving as a place for empowerment and inclusion.

“You’re fully tackling the other person, the opponent,” explains coach and captain Kat Gipson.

Tackling challenges on the field, and off. After years of Roanoke women playing rugby with the men’s club, they decided to form their own.

“Rugby is a very interesting sport in that the women’s and men’s role’s are exactly the same,” she says. “The contact level is the same. We’re going to go full tackle, we don’t wear pads. It’s very empowering. The development of this team in particular I’ve been very impressed with. We started this team in the middle of a pandemic. It was really tough. This team has grown leaps and bounds.”

The Roanoke Women’s Rugby Football Club is the only of its kind in the Star City, traveling to play other opponents and collegiate teams. Gipson says watching women understand their own strength is the most rewarding part.

“To see women walk on to this field for the first time and maybe they’ve never played a sport before, many of them have never even seen a rugby game before. To watch them come on to the field and tap into that level of contact probably for the first time in their life is pretty much the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

While the team practices twice a week, entering into the community is something that, for Gipson, is lifechanging.

“I don’t really know where I’d be without rugby on a personal level. Rugby has been the thing that has brought me my community. It’s brought me a sense of confidence when things are really tough in my life. You know, jobs are cool, paying the bills is great, but this fills me up. To watch athletes come out and be active and be inclusive and share love in this community, this is the thing that matters probably most in my life.”

Gipson encourages women who are interested to give the sport a try, they may surprise themselves with what they can accomplish.

“Rugby is something- it can be intimidating right? To say ‘oh I’m going to tackle another person and I’m scared of getting hurt or I’m scared of hurting somebody else or I don’t know if my body is physically capable. That’s intimidating. There’s a place for everybody here. Body type, athletic ability I don’t really care if you’ve seen the ball, played a sport, I want you to be here and I think that’s rare. We’ll teach you the skill. I just want you to show up and have a positive attitude and we’ll make it happen.”

Practice takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9pm at River’s Edge Sports Complex South field #3.

Women interested in attending can message the group’s Facebook page.

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