Rugby Thoughts

Kristen McCarthy, former president of Philly Women.

Play Rugby.

If I could offer one tip for the future, playing rugby would be it. The long-term benefits of playing rugby have been proven by ruggers world-wide. The rest of my advice, however, has no basis more reliable than my own rugby-playing, rugby-living experience (brief as that may be). I will dispense with the B.S. to you now.

Enjoy the play you get while you are young and injury-free. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the pleasure and luxury of your youth until you've busted your nose, separated your shoulder, and torn your ACL.

Trust me: With a few years under your belt, and after a few years on the pitch, you'll look back to pictures of yourself, and you'll recall in a way you cannot possibly grasp now - how great you actually felt after playing a whole game, and how fabulous your face and legs really looked (once upon a time). You are not as old as you think you are. You just feel it. Welcome to rugby.

Don't worry about your future health. Or worry, but know that worrying while you continue playing is about as effective as trying to score a try while successfully running out the back of the try zone without touching the ball down. The real troubles in your health's life are apt to be the things that never crossed your worried mind, but which tackle you at 2:00 PM in the second half of a game on a Saturday afternoon.

At least once a season, volunteer to play a position that scares the shit out of you.


Don't be dangerous with other teams' line-out jumpers. Definitely do NOT put up with teams who are dangerous with yours.


Don't waste your time playing dirty. Sometimes you're on the top of the pile of bodies, sometimes you're on the bottom. The game is 80 minutes long, and in the end, if someone raked you, either you or one of your teammates was able to hit him hard enough to hurt him at least once by game's end.

Remember the constructive criticism you receive. Forget the griping that goes on the field. (Chugging a lot of beer right after the game usually helps with the latter).

Keep your old play-books. Throw out your old CIPP cards.

Shoot the Boot.

Don't feel guilty if you don't know what the hell you're doing for the first couple of years you're playing. The most knowledgeable rugby players didn't know what the hell they were doing when they started out. The most honest of the most knowledgeable ones admit they still don't know everything about playing the game.

Take plenty of Advil.

Be kind to your knees ... and your shoulders ... and your arms ... and your neck ... and, well, everything else. You'll miss them when they stop working like they should.

Maybe you'll be a forward, maybe you'll be a back. Maybe CIPP will one day be an easy process, maybe it won't. Maybe you'll get suckered into being president for your team, and maybe your contribution will just be to be the anchor of your team's boat race crew. Whatever you do, don't grow too complacent, and always give it your best shot. Remember any team can beat any other team on any given day. But remember the reverse is true: any team can lose to any other team, as well.

Enjoy your body. Wait a minute, scratch that - you play rugby. Abuse it. Don't be afraid of what people think of it ... wait a minute scratch THAT - you play rugby - such fear doesn't exist. (Come on, we've all seen enough ruggers walking around in just sports bras to know that's true).

Dance - even if you're a forward and don't think you're as cute as the backs.

Learn to chug a beer so you can boat-race "decently." If you can't chug - learn that and step out of the line. Don't slow it down.

Do not feel compelled to Zulu. True it may have been fun in college, but you're older now. The people in the bar really DON'T want to see you naked - your teammates either, for that matter.

Get to know your front row. You never know when they'll get hurt or retire. Be nice to your teammates. They're the only ones to whom you never have to explain WHY you're playing this sport. They're also the people most likely to make sure you get dumped in the back of a car if you drank too much at a drink-up.

Understand that players of all abilities will come and go, but when they do come out, treat them all like you never want them to go (they may actually stay). Work hard to retain rookies, because the more you get to stay around, the more people you have to keep your team from folding, and the more people who will call you by name when you retire, but still like to go to the drink-ups.

If you're a back, play with the forwards at least once, and leave when you've run a game in their boots. If you're a forward play with the backs just once, and leave when you really appreciate how hard it is to catch some speed-demon in the open field.

Always be willing to play more than one position.

Accept certain inalienable truths: the ref doesn't care what you think really happened, Jos Bergmann will kick for points and usually make them, and you too, will get older and slower; and when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, refs would listen to your arguments, Jos would miss more than she would make, and the young players liked having old and slow players on the field - never minding that an old player missed a tackle because they couldn't get there. When you were young, you knew to respect your old girls.

Respect the old girls.

Don't bad mouth the administrators - on any level. Remember, most are volunteers trying to make things run smoothly. They do more stuff that you don't know about so that all you have to do is show up, pay dues, and play. Remember if it seemed like a pain in the ass to get your information together so you could play in a tournament, try and imagine trying to collect everyone's information, organize it, and process it.

Don't expect anyone else to pick you up when you're down. Maybe you'll have teammates who will always bolster you up. Maybe you'll have a coach that always inspires you. The bottom line is - maybe you won't have these things, and this is up to YOU to dig deep, to play hard, and to play with heart.

Don't dis the players who wear scrum-caps. They're just trying to save what's left of their grey matter.

Be careful about choosing sides when an "issue" comes up on your team. Be aware that sides can develop. If they do - remember the truth is always somewhere in the middle, and if you let the truth be known, the sides' issues become moot points, and you all can just get on with why you're here - to play rugby. But do remember that dealing with the rest of the "stuff" is as much a part of being on a team, as just taking the field together.

You'll get bruised, you'll get sore, but you'll also get slaps on the back, and will chug beers with the chick who knocked the wind out of you 30 minutes earlier. You'll become part of a whole.

So trust me about playing rugby ... it's worth it.

Later dudes! Mac