When I heard the Illinois Youth Rugby Association is holding a Girls Day of Rugby, I couldn’t help but think of my friends Tom and Rebecca. They got married after meeting at a rugby game and talk about it with fond memories nine years later. Tom isn’t necessarily playing as much, but he is now the vice president of his club and his children are playing.
The Illinois Youth Rugby Association Girls Day of Rugby aims to demonstrate and cultivate interest among women of all ages, particularly middle and high school students. I had the pleasure of speaking with Jenny Lui, a member of the U.S. Nationals Team who’s traveled throughout Europe and has her sights set on another visit in August 2014, this time to France for the World Cup.
Rugby is the newest Olympic sport, which was reinstated for Rio 2016. Ms. Lui has enjoyed the contact team sport for 13 years. She picked up the sport while attending Penn State, after a friend encouraged her to give it a try. Now a member of the U.S. National Team, she wants to spread the word to other women about the sport. “I do wish I had started playing earlier,” she admits. “The other women we are playing have started while 6, 7 and 8 years old.”
Ms. Lui is taking part in Girls Day of Rugby, a special event on Sunday, October 6, at Olympic Park in Schaumburg from 1-4 p.m. She and other members from her club team will be on hand to inspire girls and young women about the sport. “The earlier we can get women involved with rugby the better,” says Ms. Lui, who plays as often as she can and has been training for the World Cup since 2010.
According to a study conducted by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, Rugby is the fastest growing team sport in the U.S. Currently Illinois has about 300 girls playing from age 4 through high school who already love the game.
The Illinois Youth Rugby Association is hosting the Girls Day of Rugby to increase the number of middle school and high school girls in the sport who have the opportunity to join an existing club in Palatine, Plainfield, Waubonsie, Naperville, St. Charles, Sycamore, Rockford or Quad Cities. “Introducing young girls to rugby opens up a wealth of opportunities to develop athletically and personally,” explains Erin Kennedy, youth development manager for USA Rugby. “Many young women are attending college on rugby scholarships, working full-time in rugby and going to play at higher levels.”
Ms. Kennedy will be on hand to talk with girls and families about the sport. Girls will have a chance to learn rugby skills and techniques and play non-contact rugby. Admission to play is $10 and spectators are free. “It’s been a great experience for me, and I hope that more women come out to learn about the sport and give it a try,” shares Ms. Lui, who along with her U.S. National teammates will be on hand to also answer questions and share stories of travels to Europe.