The toughest club on campus

Pamela Crimbchin

Women’s rugby gains members and momentum

Sophomore advertising major Charlotte Vanduzee practices rugby passing and rushing down the field. Although the Rugby team had their final practice Tuesday, they will play a final game Saturday in Akron. Katie Roupe | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

A torn up, muddy, mosquito-infested field just before sundown seems like a scene straight out of a horror movie, but to 42 of the toughest girls on campus, it’s just a second home.

Kent State’s women’s rugby team recruited a record number of women this semester to join them at their home away from home.

“I met a lot of the veterans on campus just randomly before I even knew about rugby,” Devon Skunta-Helmink, freshman visual communication and design major, said. “They were all really awesome so it just seemed like it would be a great way to do a competitive sport and have so much fun with the girls.”

The women’s rugby team starts recruiting students the first week of school, but women can join all year long. This year the team decided to recruit at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center and ended up with 25 women.

“We were there for four hours,” sophomore Tasha Walls, recruiting chair and costume design major, said. “We just stood in the lobby and literally like flagged down like every female that walked into the door, gave them a flier and told them to play Kent State women’s rugby.”

They decided to target women working out at the rec center because they knew those women liked to be active.

“I signed up at the rec when they had a recruiting table,” Skunta-Helmink said. “They were all really excited and welcoming for girls who were interested.”

Stopping women and asking them to join has produced great results at the rec center and events like FlashFest. Senior gerontology major and captain Kelly Yost was stopped by a previous member of the team and asked to play her freshman year.

“There was just this 6-foot tall, huge woman who came up to me like four years ago. And like I’m in a skirt and heels walking back from some class because that’s what freshmen do, and they were like ‘do you want to play rugby?'”

The women also post fliers in dorm rooms and campus buildings. That’s how freshman nursing major Whitney Thompson found out about the team in February.

“I actually saw a flier around Eastway and just applied,” Thompson said. “Everybody makes the team, but you have to go there and show your stuff.”

When recruiting, the women make sure there is no discrimination of size because there is a position for everyone on the rugby field.

“It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play,” Yost said. “If you have the ambition and the drive and the athleticism, then you’re not going to be stopped because you weight 90 pounds.”

Even though the team received 25 new recruits this semester, they understand that not all of the women will stay and therefore they keep recruiting.

“They think this is just a three day, four day a week thing,” Yost said. “Whereas it becomes a lifestyle.”

Many students have to leave the team because of school or work conflicts and medical issues that come with playing a collision sport.

With the increase in recruitment and the usual conflicts that cause women to leave the team, Kent State women’s rugby team is very young. The team has only two seniors and a handful of juniors. However, if the current amount of players return in the fall, the team will have a great start to its next season.

“With the talent of women I have now, we will be contenders in the fall,” coach James Kaminsky said.

Kaminsky joins in with the women as they practice to make sure they are prepared for everything and anything. Kaminsky has been playing rugby for over 22 years.

After practices the women return to campus for food and showers. Women rugby players are usually described as being tough, dirty and bruised. However true this may be on the rugby field, off the field they blend right in with the “girly-est girly girls” on campus.

“I don’t recognize them when they get dressed up,” Kaminsky said. “I mean I see them when they’re dirty. They get all dolled up having fun out on Friday and Saturday nights, I wouldn’t know who they were.”

The team is used to the stereotypes that come with playing rugby, but never really notice them or let it bother them.

“If someone ever tried to bother me with nonsense stereotypes, I know I have 39 girls that have my back,” Skunta-Helmink said.

Whether the women are “girly girls” off the field or not, they are a powerful force on the rugby field and with the increase in recruitment, these women will be a force to be reckoned with next semester.

Contact Student Recreation and Wellness Center reporter Pamela Crimbchin at [email protected].