USA Rugby is leading the NCAA Women’s Rugby effort and can provide administrators and institutions with informational materials and proposals catered specifically to an institution’s budget, needs and desires for an additional women’s sport.
Women's Rugby is currently classified as an NCAA emerging sport. Official classification as an emerging sport means that the NCAA recognizes women's rugby as a full varsity intercollegiate program and the institution may use the program costs and athlete participation to count towards their compliance with gender equity requirements.
Current varsity women’s rugby programs include Eastern Illinois (2002), West Chester (2004), Bowdoin (2004), Norwich (2008), Quinnipiac (2010), Davenport (2013) and Harvard (2013) Universities. Brown, Central Washington, and Life Universities will field a varsity women’s rugby team effective with the 2014-15 academic year. Additional schools and NCAA conferences are strongly considering the prospect of an NCAA Women’s Rugby program which should result in continued growth and increase in the number of varsity programs.
Rugby is one of the few true full-contract sports and the only one offered by the NCAA for women. Physical contact occurs at virtually every phase of the game. However, rugby is not solely defined by contact. A successful rugby team combines tackling, speed, strength, agility, passing, kicking, and driving for a multifaceted attack.
For schools that are not in compliance with Title IX, Women’s Rugby provides a low-cost option by adding a sport that can field a large roster with minimal equipment needs. For all institutions, it’s an economical way to offer a popular women’s athletic activity for current and incoming students. All that is needed to add a women’s rugby team is 1) a pool of existing or incoming students that want to play, 2) a coach, 3) a soccer-sized field for practice and competition, and 4) developing a schedule with local, regional and national competitive opportunities.
Youth high school and club rugby participation grew over 400 percent in the span of the past two years. Currently there are 38 state organizations tasked with providing infrastructure for and growing the youth and girls high school opportunities. “We’re starting to see more multi-sport athletes gravitate toward rugby,” says Jenn Heinrich, executive director of Rugby Oregon. “With more visible opportunities to play in college and on the national stage, rugby is starting to become a more viable option for the college-bound athlete.”
Rugby is among the world’s most popular sports. A 2010 study by America’s Sporting Goods Manufacturers’ Association (SGMA), based on a survey of sporting participation in 120 different sports, rugby is the fastest growing team sport in the United States. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of people playing rugby grew from 750,000 to 1.13m with women making up a third of the total. As one of the largest and more popular club sports on college campuses, and with the recent addition of the 7s game into the 2016 Olympic Games, women’s rugby is poised for continued national growth.
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