Friday, January 23, 2015

Canton Ladies Looking to Make A Name in the Women's Rugby Circuit

Most people on the Ohio rugby scene knows that Canton has a long-standing tradition in the sport. The city's men's team is famous for their blue camouflage kits, and their annual tournament draws teams from all over the region. In October of 2014, Canton rugby got a lady's touch as a small contingency answered the call interested women in the area  and planted the seeds that will hopefully lead to the establishment of a women's team that will rival the established men's team.

Canton Maddogs logo.
(Credit: Canton Lady Maddogs Rugby Facebook page)
"When we were doing our regular recruiting for our main team we had a lot of women coming up to us, asking us if we had a women's team," said Ryan Moton, assistant coach of the Lady Maddogs. "We got 10 to 15 women asking so we decided to start one."

"We started the women's team because we wanted to expand the Canton Rugby club," said Sara Mills, captain of the newly-minted Lady Maddogs. "They already had men's, high school, and middle school teams so we wanted to try to add a women's team."

From the women who generated the interest in the team, about ten stayed throughout the run of their short season. With the participants all being college-age student athletes from different universities, the general practices of a club were made difficult. Fortunately, their athletic backgrounds and their experienced leader made the conversion over to rugby a smooth one.

"They were all really good athletes so catching on to a sport like rugby was really easy for them," Moton said. Some of the habits the players had to break were things like apologizing after tackling opposing players.

"As captain of a young team, I think my biggest challenge is probably just being the only experienced player we have," Hills said. "The girls are picking up the game quickly, but they ask for my help with understanding it a lot."

The distance between the players made hanging out and bonding with one another difficult, though they did have a team cookout during exam week in the Fall. Moton said when they return to practice it will become clear how well that bond will form. Despite the strong core of players they have right now, for the club to remain viable and be a success increasing their numbers is essential.

"Our biggest issues is recruiting," Mills said. "We've been reaching out to the local colleges but haven't had much success. We are going to try to reach out to the community more to try to get more players. Our biggest issue with recruiting is just knowing where to recruit players. I think the plan is to just branch out where we've been looking for players. The few girls that we had in the fall are also trying to recruit their friends."

"I believe we are going to have to reach out to some other avenues," Moton said. "We need to get more women who are affiliated with the Canton area. Hopefully, we can develop a deep urge in the Canton area, but if we have to build it with college players there are enough colleges in the area that we could build a solid women's team from those three or four colleges."

So far the Lady Maddogs are comprised of students from the University of Akron, the Stark County branch of Kent State University, Walsh University and Malone University. When the men's team rolls out their recruitment campaign in the near future they will be on the look out for women who are interested in joining the Lady Maddogs as well.

The Lady Maddogs weren't just toiling alone in Canton during the early months of their existence. The men's team helped with coaching, recruiting and other operational needs; and the Hiram women's team helped them get some game time under their belts. Despite their small numbers, the addition to the collegiate women's side paid dividends in their encounter.

"We played with Hiram against Oberlin," Hills said. "We won the game and  our girls scored most of the tries for our team."

Looking to build upon that on-field success, the Lady Maddogs are venturing out to find more competition. According to Moton, a few established women's teams have asked for matches with the newly-minted Canton side but the team's management has been selective about who they intend to face.

"We're trying to make sure they are playing teams that are on their talent level," Moton said. "We don't want to take them out there and play a Division I women's team, suffer that beating and have them get discouraged with the sport."

On their short list of teams to play are the Akron women and a few other Ohio-based clubs. While it seems as though establishing the club and getting off to a solid competitive start ha gone well so far, Hills and Moton are looking into the future and have clear goals for the young club.

"The short term goals are to pretty much just be able to field a full side," Hill said. "Long term goals would be to actually enter in a league and start playing more as Canton and not a Canton-Hiram hybrid."

Moton is eyeing this summer's sevens season as a time for the ladies to shine. Citing the excess speed and light-weight build of his players combined with their understanding of attacking strategy, he said that the women are built for sevens.

Players interested in trying out Lady Maddog rugby in the Canton area are encouraged to reach out and get in touch with the team. Interested parties should contact Ryan Moton or head to the team's Facebook page.

No comments:

Post a Comment