Courtesy of Elizabeth Van Ha

While Yale club women’s rugby is unable to practice formally this year, its members have maintained a close connection with one another.

For those in New Haven, small, unofficial practices without coaches have been coordinated in accordance with University COVID-19 protocols, while practices have been held over Zoom during arrival quarantine and for members outside the Elm City. Despite difficulties connecting class years, a number of first-year students have been recruited through word of mouth and peer outreach.

“Recruiting, like this year in general, was not as traditional,” co-captain of the women’s team Elizabeth Van Ha ’22 wrote in a joint statement with co-captain Destinie Brooks ’22 and head coach Craig Wilson. “A lot of recruiting has occurred through bringing pods of members to our virtual workouts and to our in-person socially distanced team bonding events (i.e. playing music and eating cookies out on Crescent).”

The women’s club rugby team lacked the presence of many members in the fall semester, as roughly half the team decided to enroll remotely or take leaves of absence. To adapt, the club used unconventional training methods in order to stay fit and keep close. 

Training is held twice a week through Zoom for remote players. For those in New Haven, Van Ha said that she and Brooks have organized outdoor gatherings that are “properly registered and completely student-led with absolutely no coach involvement.” These meetings are registered through a Yale Connect form when more than seven players are expected to participate. The team has been able to distribute rugby balls and hold informal group runs or hikes to East Rock.

“A Strava group has also allowed for members outside of New Haven to stay involved,” the joint statement from the co-captains and coaching staff read. “We have at least one in-person and one virtual activity a week to keep team morale high no matter where our members are located.”

The 2019-2020 women’s rugby team during its game against Penn on Sept. 28, 2019. (Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Van Ha)

In accordance with restrictions on club sports this semester, women’s rugby has not held formal in-person practices with coaches during the 2020-2021 year and did not compete this year. The status of competition next year remains unclear.

Still, the team expanded its roster this year to recruit a number of first-year students.

“The team is so welcoming, and I’d played a bit in high school, so I was looking forward to joining,” said Olivia Sally ’24.

As a student who lived on campus during the first semester, Sally was able to play touch rugby and bond with teammates living in New Haven. However, now that she is enrolled remotely, she now participates in remote practices, which have been “hard” from a distance.

Another first-year student, Gabriela Mitrushi ’24, who joined during the fall, first heard of the rugby team through a friend who had returned from an in-person practice. She reached out to current members, whom she said readily welcomed her to participate. Currently, Mitrushi lives on-campus and participates in team activities in person.

“Getting involved with sports is harder than usual because it’s not like you can practice with what’s going on,” said Mitrushi, who joined the team this year. “The rugby team has been very welcoming with trying to get as many first years involved as possible.”

In their most recent games, played in fall 2019, the team defeated Columbia University, the University of New Haven and Southern Connecticut State University. Earlier that year, the team finished second behind Columbia in the 2019 Ivy Sevens Club Championship.

Women’s club rugby was established at Yale in 1978. 

Hamera Shabbir | hamera.shabbir@yale.edu

HAMERA SHABBIR