When the Carondelet Cougars took the pitch (the rugby term for field) for the first time this inaugural season, it was with a group of high school girls who have never played rugby and are relishing the experience. "A lot of girls are intimidated by rugby because of the tackling," says Kasey Madsen '19. "But the tackling is the best part." This type of enthusiasm seems ingrained in all the girls on the team, and they need that strength and determination to play a contact sport that is all grit and training.
The girls on the Carondelet High School Rugby team come from diverse athletic backgrounds and their diverse skills-sets are a perfect complement to rugby because the sport really requires all sorts of skills. "Rugby requires people of all different shapes and sizes to have a really strong team" says Kasey. Coach Adam Chaffey highlights that certain positions require certain skills, and the "overall desire to be in contact and not be afraid of hitting the ground is foremost," said Coach Chaffey. "There aren't many opportunities for women to play contact sports and rugby is a perfect team, contact sport. It's all a stigma and a lot of rubbish that girls don't play contact sports," Coach Chaffey added.
Coach Chaffey (originally from Australia) is a long-time rugby player who recently took a position at Carondelet High School as a religious studies teacher. When he was hired, he tested the waters with his new principal about a women's rugby team. "After watching the Women's Rugby World Cup Sevens that took place in San Francisco this past summer, I knew it was time," he said. Prior to Carondelet, Coach Chaffey coached high school boys' rugby in Alameda.
This past summer women's rugby took the Bay Area by storm and that was the opportunity to promote a team. The sport continues to grow with a number of teams ready to compete this season in California and the country. With the help of Carondelet's new Athletic Director, Thomas Williams, Principal, Kevin Cushing, and NorCal Rugby, the Cougars formed their inaugural team and joined a 20 team NorCal Rugby League.
"The new Carondelet Athletic Complex also makes this possible," said Athletic Director Thomas Williams. Carondelet's new Athletic Center and the field space has provided a home for traditional sports (softball, lacrosse, and soccer) and now offers a unique opportunity for female athletes looking for a contact sport.
Coach Chaffey says, "Rugby requires players to come together and do their individual parts in cooperation, that's when the magic on the field happens. And the women's game is different. Technically, the game play is cleaner and easier to follow, so it makes for a really exciting game to watch." That was clear when they donned their red and black for the first time this season in the Girls KOT in Elk Grove last weekend in a preseason tournament that attracted scouts from around the country. The Cougars dropped their first game. But in game two, the Cougars capitalized on cleaning up the mistakes from their first game to bounce back for a 19-17 win in game two against Bishop O'Dowd and a 1-1 first tournament record.
"Running through a pack of people without being knocked on the ground, outrunning people, and tackling someone no one else could stop makes you feel invincible," said senior Kasey Madsen. This inaugural season and team already seems invincible for a sport and a big-hearted coach looking at ways to encourage girls to tackle new things together.