Rugby is played in seasons, and in Alberta, that means outdoor practice starts in April, and the season wraps in September. Six months is all we get here. I know that there are things done to extend the season – sevens series, CIS season in the fall, and snow sevens are a few of the ways that we try to squeeze as much rugby as possible into the year, but ultimately, rugby is played in seasons.
Rugby has also been played in almost all of the seasons of my life. I’ve been lucky to be involved in the game in many different roles and ways. I started my career in high school, which led me to play other team sports in high school. I’ve played strictly for fun, and I’ve played for competition. I’ve recruited my sister to play with me. I’ve stood pregnant on the sidelines and watched my team win a city championship. I’ve stepped back onto the field within a month of having my daughter. I’ve coached high school, club, and representative teams. I’ve refereed. I’ve held administrative positions. I’ve volunteered in many different capabilities. I’ve been a tournament organizer. I’ve been a mom of rugby players. I’ve been a mom that is also a rugby player. I’ve had my kids on the sidelines cheering me on, but unable to recognize me because of the scrum cap. I’ve played and got really fit, and I’ve played less fit. I’ve been a captain, and I’ve been a manager. I’ve played for two different clubs, and worn many more jerseys than that in the spirit of getting a game going. I’ve played every position in the pack, and everything in the backs except for fullback (I was a wing in grade 10). I’ve watched the club expand their women’s side to two teams, and I’ve played in years where we couldn’t field a full 15 players for games. I’ve been on tour with the women’s team, as a club, as a coach, with the men’s team. I’ve acted as a trainer for the Pirate teams. I have made my very best friends in this sport, and these friendships have lasted for years, even as our own relationships to rugby have changed. I have covered myself with rugby, in every possible way that I have found.
Over the course of my rugby career, I’ve changed from an awkward, 15-year old high school student to a confident, outgoing 33-year old with two children. And in that time, rugby has always been able to meet my needs, no matter the season of my life.
It fulfilled my need to build confidence when I was shy and awkward and it’s given me a place where I can work on building the confidence of others. You can only win rucks when you are confident.
It fulfilled my need to be a leader in many capacities and this experience has prepared me for the work that I do now. It has also made me a better follower after having had a leadership role, because I have a greater understanding of the demands that leadership places on people.
It fulfilled my need to find something to do with myself that was physical, but also social. It is always there for me, regardless of my current level of fitness, and my teammates are some of the most supportive people around. It’s there, pushing me to do better. It shows my kids that all body types contribute and are valued in this sport.
It has fulfilled my need to stay involved when sidelined by pregnancy, to be involved after I’ve had children, and has given me a place where I can bring the kids and they will be greeted by everyone in the building. It’s a place where my kids feel safe and have fun, knowing that there will be a couple of other kids looking for activity.
It’s allowed me to share something that I love with my kids, and to watch them pick it up with the same joy and abandon that I have. Minis rugby is a great way for kids to experience the game for the first time, instead of waiting until high school.
In all the seasons of my life, rugby has been exactly what I need it to be. Check us out and see what it can be to you.
This past season, Pirates celebrated the 20th anniversary of the women’s team, with many of the alumni coming out. It was a really great event that highlighted how much this sport has impacted each of our lives. More recently, one of our women’s team members, DJTP, threw a party. While it was tied to a specific life event, it ended up being a party celebrating our female camaraderie. In honour of International Women’s Day this month (March 8th), we are posting a small, and slightly edited, excerpt from the speech at that party. It wasn’t just a celebration of that life event, it was a celebration of how sport brings women together and teaches us friendship, strength, and independence while providing a support system when we need it. Cheers to all the #womeninsport!
What is weird to me is that the only times that a group of women really get together to celebrate another woman’s life is when she is going to become a wife or a mother. Nothing is wrong with either of those things obviously, and they should be celebrated. But I don’t know why we don’t celebrate each others other big moments with actual events, especially since it’s 2017 and not everyone will do either of those things. I’m 100% sure I won’t be having a baby shower and 99% sure a bridal shower is out of the question as well, so that left me feeling like I was never going to get a party where we celebrate an important milestone for me. And I’m sure some of you feel the same way. It’s nice to be the center of attention and have others congratulate you on a big moment. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting that moment once in your life!
I’m so crazy happy that you guys are my friends and that I have such an amazing support system of women. It seems like the world wants us to just hate each other all the time, and I think that’s what keeps us as a gender down instead of backing each other up. We do so much crazy s***. We work in industries we aren’t supposed to, like the oil patch and as managers and in science and math and in trades, and we buy our own houses and dogs and cats BY OURSELVES. We raise our own kids and we travel the world alone or with each other. We unabashedly play and love sports we aren’t supposed to.
I grew up at Pirates and watched a bunch of crazy women beat the s*** out of each other on the pitch, then run along the sidelines in flipflops and sports bras while yelling at the mens team to sort their s***, head back in to this building and slam a beer and then head home to careers and homes and families and kill it in life. Those were the women I grew up watching, and they obviously had an impact on me in a big and great way. My goal was just to be one of those chicks.
For those of you who are having kids, please do and have a bunch, cause this group is who needs to be raising the next generation. And I have no doubt that your daughters will turn out to be badasses, cause they’ll be watching us on the pitch swearing and boozing and crushing life and know that they can do the same. But really, teach your sons and nephews and godchildren that the women who don’t need them are the women they want and that those women are desirable. Cause then we’ll have a generation of men who think equality is normal and holy f***, do we ever need that.
Cause the more we can see each other achieve, the more we know we can do the same. And then we can pass that on to those little girls on the sidelines watching us that it’s normal and good that you can have female friends who matter as much or more than husbands and boyfriends.
Hoping to see some new ladies out on the pitch this season!
I came to the Pirates in a rather uncommon way. I’m not from Edmonton, I didn’t know a single girl on the team; I didn’t even know where the club was before I joined. Having recently moved to Fort Saskatchewan from Bonnyville, I was a new to the area and was finding it hard to meet people and make friends. Originally from Ontario, I was just getting comfortable in Bonnyville and this second move had left me without my family and with no sense of community. Needless to say, I wasn’t enjoying myself and felt pretty alone.
Enter Pirates Rugby club! After speaking (and drinking) with a friend who was coaching the Cold Lake team, I decided to end my seven-year hiatus and find a new club. Being the millennial that I am, I turned to Google to find a club close by and the Edmonton Pirates Rugby Club came up! In my fearless, inebriated state, I emailed the women’s coach, Randi, asking about the team. She promptly replied, inviting me to come out, watch practice and meet the girls. I’ll admit, I was out of my comfort zone showing up to a practice for a team I didn’t belong to full of women I’d never met, but I got over my hesitation and showed up on a hot Tuesday in June. Randi introduced me to a couple of girls and we spoke about the schedule. I made the decision to commit to the team later that day; I missed the sport and thought that it would be a good opportunity to make some friends!
The next time I showed up to practice, Randi introduced me to the rest of the girls and I jumped right into the drills. It definitely took some work to get my skills back, but it was never something that I worried about because I always had such a good time. I can honestly say that I have never played for a team in any sport that has been so welcoming, inclusive, and supportive. Even though I was a complete stranger to these women, they made me feel like a Pirate from day one. Rugby practice quickly became the place where I could go to see my friends and have a great time, even on fitness days. Now that’s saying something.
The camaraderie extends beyond the field, too. Whether it’s going out for beers after practice, joining the team book club, or just meeting up for coffee and a good chat, I always feel welcome. What’s more, as a vegan, parties and social events usually mean going hungry for the night; but regardless of the occasion, if it’s a Pirates party, someone always makes sure I’m well fed. This club has an amazing sense of community that I count myself lucky to be a part of!
I know I’ve spoken a lot about the women’s team in particular, but I truly cannot say enough good things about this club as a whole. They’ve got strong leadership, they play fantastic rugby, and they’re great friends. So take it from me, whether you’re a guy or a girl, new to the sport, getting back into it, or a seasoned vet – if you’re looking for a club, a Pirates life is for you!
2017 Registrations can be started by following the link below. All registrations are online through Rugby Canada. Please click the Registration Procedures 2017 for more information. If you still require help, please contact the registrar, Kate Childs.
“I played everything. I played lacrosse, baseball, hockey, soccer, track and field. I was a big believer that you played hockey in the winter and when the season was over you hung up your skates and you played something else.” – Wayne Gretzky
Nothing like starting off a blog with a quote from a token famous athlete, none other than The Great One… But his words on multi-sport participation ring true. There has been a ton of recent research to support and encourage multi- sport participation, mostly of young, developing athletes, but the benefits are seen at any age and skill level. We know that being a multi-sport athlete helps to prevent injuries caused by overuse of muscles associated with repetitive movements, avoid burnout of athletes who specialize in sports too young or too quickly, and increases overall athletic ability and performance.
I was a multi-sport athlete. I grew up playing hockey in the winter, baseball in the summer, and doing competitive dance all year round. By the time I was in junior high, I took multi-sport athlete to a whole new level. I was playing on two different hockey teams (a boys and a girls team) from fall to spring, volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter, badminton in the spring, a baseball and a softball team in the summer, and dancing all year. And this continued into high school, where I replaced badminton with rugby in the spring and summer. Some may see this as incredibly insane, I see it differently. I loved playing all these sports and how the skills from each helped to develop me in the other sports I played.
So, how does playing other sports actually benefit rugby players?
- Basketball was literally invented to condition players for summer sports such as soccer, football, and rugby during colder months of the year.
- The cuts and lines that players run in a basketball offense directly translate to running offensive lines in rugby, particularly for backs. Additionally, since the basketball court is smaller than the rugby field, it challenges a player to further see and find the open space to either break through a defense or to make themselves open to a pass. This means that rugby players who play basketball in the off-season or basketball players who try rugby are going to bring these offensive skills to their rugby game.
- Concepts in basketball defense also share a common thread with rugby: focus on the waist/hips. Again, players who develop as rugby and basketball players bring this with them to their game.
- Fitness, sprinting, and agility are also similar in basketball and rugby. Players will find that as they develop their fitness, sprinting, and agility in one sport, it will similarly benefit them in the other.
- Height can also be an advantage in both basketball and rugby, so there’s that too for those who are blessed with height.
- Hockey is one of the best cross-training activities for rugby because it occurs in the off-season and skating involves some different sets of leg muscles and movements , which helps to reduce muscle imbalances, prevent overuse injuries, and promote overall lower body strength.
- Concepts of seeing and finding open space in hockey will have similar benefits to rugby as basketball.
- Body contact and body checking in hockey can help rugby players to build strength, stability, and skills to break tackles or to handle tackles. Hockey players become comfortable with a level of physicality that is obviously useful in rugby as a full contact, tackle sport. In this way, hockey can also be used as a great off-season sport to give rugby players’ bodies a little bit of a rest from a summer of being bashed and bruised, but still offer a piece of physicality until the next rugby season begins.
Baseball/Softball/and I guess (begrudgingly) Slo-Pitch – Note: these are technically all different sports
- One of the most useful things that baseball gives to rugby players is excellent hand-eye coordinator. The ability to hit a baseball with a bat is one of the most difficult things in sport to perform, so for those who can master this, they have incredible hand-eye abilities. Additionally, simply throwing a baseball at a target requires advanced hand-eye coordination, which is fairly critical in rugby to pass and catch the ball. Players who have previously played sports that involve throwing and catching will bring increased skills to their rugby game.
- Some may say baseball is a slow sport, while this may be some people’s complete and utter misunderstanding, baseball has a unique strategic framework; players on the same team are positioned quite distant from each other on the field and there are sudden bursts of action preceded and followed by brief pauses in play. For baseball players, mental preparation is a key for success that transfers to every other sport they will play.
- Upper body strength development in baseball can help rugby players to pass farther.
Dance, Gymnastics, and Figure Skating
- Flexibility from participation in dance or gymnastics can help rugby players to reduce and prevent injuries as well as to better perform their skills. Running requires a significant amount of hip, leg, ankle/foot flexibility. Another added bonus, the more flexible you are, the less it hurts when you are tackled or rucked into really awkward positions i.e. neck, shoulder, and hip flexibility.
- It takes an incredible level of strength to literally through oneself in the air and spin/flip/tumble. Respect.
- Development of coordination, balance, and quick foot movements in dance, gymnastics, and figure skating improve foot speed and agility and can be helpful in avoiding tackles and offensive moves in rugby.
- Kicking! If you’ve previously played soccer, it is 100% guaranteed that you will be asked if you can do the restarts and kick for goal/points/touch for the rugby team.
- Foot speed and coordination are helpful in rugby and can be mastered through soccer.
- Indoor soccer can be a great way for rugby players to improve their kicking and foot speed/coordination in the off-season.
- Obvious parallels can be drawn between the physicality in rugby and football, though the rugby tackle is proven to be more effective and safer for players to perform than the typical football tackle. The rugby tackle emphasizes contact with the shoulder, ideally, at the waist area of an opposing player, the wrap of the arms, and drive to the ground. Conversely, the football tackle is usually executed without emphasizing the wrap of the arms, which leaves a higher probability that players will actually stay on their feet rather than go to ground. So, while football players bring their experience from another full contact, tackle sport to the game of rugby and can very quickly learn the rugby tackle, playing rugby can help improve a players skills that they can bring back to football.
Thanks to Tara Sliwkanich, former Baseball Canada national team and Rugby Canada U-20 member, for her perspective on how rugby both benefits and is benefited by participation in multiple sports.
We hear it all the time in sports, “it’s more than just a game.” Well, you’re going to hear it again. Rugby is more than just a game, it’s an avocation and a passion. Rugby is blood, sweat, and tears. It’s commitment, hard work, and sacrifices. It’s hundreds of dollars in beer, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent. And it’s worth it all.Every rugby player has woken up on a Sunday morning and questioned why we play a game that leaves us feeling like a truck had hit us the day before, and each of us are back on the pitch the following week. It is difficult to explain our love of rugby to someone that has never played rugby, but here is my best attempt.
One of the best things about rugby is the camaraderie. I began playing rugby 11 years ago, and my closest friends today are still those I learned to play rugby with all those years ago, and I have made countless friendships along the way. Any rugby player, from any club, anywhere in the world will tell you that there is no bond like the bonds formed by rugby teammates (especially second rows with their front rows), and even opponents. A rugby club is a family; whether you are a rookie, veteran, or alumnus, you will always be a part of the club, and the members of the club will always have your back. I will always, always be a Pirate. Each year I have played, I have met incredible people, from all walks of life, that I know I can count on both on and off the pitch.
Although we complain about the soreness and weather and mosquitos and fitness, we all miss weeknight practices and weekend games as soon as the season ends (well, maybe one week after), and anticipate the new season all winter. Beyond the training and the competition, the culture and sportsmanship embedded in rugby is like no other. Rugby can be seen as violent and intimidating, but at its core, it is a sport that is about respect, gamesmanship, and integrity as much as it is about the backwards pass. We all train to be the best, and we all play to win; but at the end of the day, we are all there and we sacrifice so much to be there, not because anyone pays us or watches us, but because we just love to be there.
Rugby is much more than “just a game.” However, it is a game, and it is a game that is dynamic, physical, inclusive, and fun to play. I love rugby because anyone can play, regardless of size or ability. I love rugby because being a good rugby player isn’t all about speed or strength or skill (although having those things do not hurt); it’s about heart, hustle, and tenacity. It’s about running without fear, taking down someone twice your size, getting up when you’re down, and pushing until the eightieth minute. It’s about supporting your teammates (even when you’re dead tired and all they are doing is running sideways), chasing down every ball (even when it’s a tight game and your prop goes for a left-footed chip and chase), and giving everything in the scrum (even when the backs drop the ball for the 19th time in 2.5 minutes). The game can take someone that is timid and unsure, and turn them into someone that is confident and fearless. Pre-game always feels like a calm before a storm, but when the first whistle is blown, any nervousness and doubt disappears, and the adrenaline takes over.
Over the last decade, rugby has had a huge impact on the person I’ve become. Not because of where the sport has taken me, but what the sport has given me: friends to last a lifetime, discipline, dedication, and fearlessness, confidence in my own strengths and abilities, leadership and teamwork skills, and opportunities to be apart of a community that is much bigger than a game; I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Rugby is a culture, a passion, a family; and everything about it is perfect (except sometimes the officiating).
Can’t wait for rugby season.
The Edmonton Rugby Football Club is still accepting resumes for the position of head coach of the men’s third division team. The posting will remain open until a suitable candidate is found. Please click the link to see the posting. (Mens Head Coach Posting)
New Year’s Resolutions. Love them or hate them, they are a tradition as old as the Babylonians, who used to promise the gods to repay their debts and return items borrowed from others. While resolutions are often reserved for the individual, the Edmonton Rugby Football Club does have some lofty goals for the 2017 season – developing a more diverse social climate, running a second senior women’s team, rebuilding our men’s program, and growing rugby in our junior ranks. When searching for examples of the ‘best’ rugby programs for inspiration, there is no doubt the All Blacks would clearly be considered top dog using many metrics: they have never ranked lower than third in the World Rugby rankings, they are the winners of the most World Cups, holding three championships, and they were the first to successfully defend a World Cup championship title. But even the best clubs go through transitions. In 2003, the All Blacks faced their lowest world ranking, forcing the program go through an overhaul. The basic premise was ‘better people make better All Blacks’. The results speak for themselves: other than a couple of periods between 2007 and 2009, the All Blacks have been first in the world rankings. The strategies implemented by the organization were outlined in Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership, written by James Kerr, who followed the team in early 2010. If you’re looking for some inspiration for your own rugby resolutions, grab the book, or check out this summary blog by Gavin Hickie.
There is an intimate link between individual attitude and club or team success. The culture of the All Blacks is summed up in two words: ‘No Dickheads.’ They have a team-first policy. Their values funnel down from that statement and are enforced by the members themselves. For 2017, some of the board members have decided to share their resolutions for promoting a club culture we can all be proud to be a part of. See if you can match the resolution with the board member!
To be more punctual for practices and games. To let cooler heads prevail on the field and let go of disagreements with referees.
To finish every project I start. I have too many half completed projects.
To introduce myself to any new players I see at the club.
To contribute to club unity by bringing back more social events.
To focus on three basic principles: inclusiveness, competition, and success.
To make sure no one goes alone, on or off the field.
To grow my capacity as a leader, as well as others, and develop a stronger connection between the men’s and women’s programs.
To encourage volunteerism within the club by acting as a model of it myself and publicly acknowledging the contributions of others.
Wishing all of our friends and family the best in the coming New Year. We look forward to sharing our success stories with you as we take the pitch.