Monday, July 6, 2015

Mahoning Valley Women Breaking Away for A Fresh Start

As rugby increases in popularity, teams seem to pop up like weeds to provide playing opportunities for men, women and children all around the United States. The Mahoning Valley Women's Rugby Club is setting out to provide playing options for women in the Youngstown area, but the birth of this club came from a need for change as well as a need for on-field options female athletes in the area.

Jennifer Waltman and Elizabeth Schroth are leading the charge in developing this fledgling club. The two women decided to create the Mahoning Valley Women's Rugby Club early in their playing careers, following some time with the Youngstown Women's Rugby Club. Waltman, a lifelong athlete, is in the fourth year of her rugby career after being asked to play while unwinding after work.

"Initially I was involved with the Youngstown Women's Rugby Club because it was the only local club here," she said. "The other closest teams to play for were in Akron or Pittsburgh. The development of the Mahoning Valley Club came about as a separation from the Youngstown Women's Club due to differences between members' methods in running an organization. Liz and I decided it would be in our best interest if we wanted to keep rugby alive in Youngstown for women that we would need to start a new team."

The main difference between the MVWRC and the established Youngstown outfit will be attitude. According to Waltman, there were some off-putting attitudes among the Youngstown women that she thought were improper and potentially harmful to the reputation and growth of the game.

"The purpose of establishing this team is to help grow interest in the sport and keep it alive in Youngstown so women have the opportunity to play," she said. "We're more of a social club, but we're still going to be competitive. When I play, I play to win and that's what I expect out of my teammates. Rugby in general is a social sport, but that doesn't mean we're going to forego any sort of competitive nature."

Often when there is dissent and individuals make a departure from an established organization, there are hard feelings and opposition.Fortunately, this has not been the case with the Youngstown women. According to Waltman, the Youngstown men's team have lended a hand in forming the club; and their ex-coach, Donna Stavick, has been very supportive of what they are trying to do as well. Stavick coached Waltman and Schroth when they were with the original Youngstown club and is continuing to help them now.

"As an Iron Ovary she wants nothing more than to see the sport grow in popularity and succeed, especially for women," Waltman said. "The support we have from several members of the Steel Valley Men's Club. The knowledge that we have so many willing to help us succeed and want us to succeed is helping drive us."

The new club will have open-minded leadership at the help that is willing to listen to differing opinions and always act in the team's best interest.

Clubs don't run on positive vibes alone, though, and in order for the new club to have a chance Waltman and Schroth had to begin the task of recruiting. In this respect, Waltman sought out to find women like herself to become teammates as part of the new club.

"We've been trying to target more athletic women 18-and-over [players]," Waltman said. "I've found that it is a lot easier to get athletes to work and train and do what is necessary or expected of them at practices. I'm not saying the average woman off the street isn't capable, but those who know what it means to be a part of a team or those that have participated in team sports have an easier time with the concepts addressed at practices."

Waltman is trying to hook younger players because athletes that have recently finished their high school careers and don't play a sport at the college level are more likely to join. To get the word out, Waltman and Schroth have distributed flyers in gyms and community spaces in order to catch the eye of the individuals they are targeting. Looking down the line, Waltman plans to send flyers to local high schools throughout the school year on top of going into the schools and doing brief presentations on the sport to build interest among the girls. Though Waltman is targeting a certain type of player, her overall recruitment philosophy follows the all-inclusive idea at the heart of rugby.

"We won't turn away those interested and willing to put in work," she said. "You don't have to have previous athletic experience, just a willingness to learn and work hard."

The most pressing challenge that the ladies are facing with the new club is establishing a culture of dedication. The social nature of the team makes it difficult to establish mandatory training sessions and convince players to have patience as they practice  ahead of competitions. It's even harder to ask these social players to pay money to register with USA Rugby so they can play when competitions do arise. Waltman and Schroth should have no issue getting past this issue as well as any others that might arise. The two of them have years of experience at the helm of successful clubs. Schroth was President for three years with Youngstown, while Waltman was Vice President.

Looking forward, Waltman plans to have the MVW thriving with an associated club at Youngstown State University. Women interested in joining Waltman, Schroth and the other lady players, should send the team an e-mail to get details on training sessions and other developments.

25 comments:

  1. As a member of the ywrc, I find this whole article confusing and offensive. These women were in charge for 3 years only because they cancelled elections and allowed no other players to have a say in anything. They haven't played rugby in years, feigning injuries instead of coming to practice. They bullied some members repeatedly, and destroyed the previous team. I wish them luck, but I hope they change their ways or else they will ruin women's rugby in this area.

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    1. You needed a quorum of members who had been a member for a term of one year. I do believe you were in agreement with postponing because of a lack of participation.

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  3. As president of the Youngstown Steel Valley Rugby Club I would like to wish the newly formed women's team the best of luck. I have had the privledge of coaching both Liz and Jen in the past and could not think of a better pair to lead the charge of this new team. Both these women have the knowledge and expirence of playing the sport needed to guide a successful program. The only thing offensive would be the attitude of former players who decide to slander their names and experience as Ruggers, precisely the attitude as mentiond in the article above. Godspeed and cheers, sisters.

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  4. I played with the Ywrc for several months while home from college a while ago. The only time I saw Liz or Jen at a practice was when the news showed up, and all they did was gossip about another player and be dramatic. I had an INCREDIBLY bad impression of both of them, and I've been playing rugby for years, for both collegiate and club level. The other members of the team were incredibly welcoming, and passionate about the sport. These two just seemed to enjoy being in charge of something. I haven't seen them play at any tournaments since. I hope the other members of the team are still active, because they were the only thing youngstown rugby had going for them. Marcella, Leslie, hank, and spooky- I hope you are a part of this!

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    1. I attended more practices than anyone. You are?

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  5. Same here! I gave up after two straight practices where no one showed up. Everyone was really friendly except Jen (I don't know liz) who had done nothing except talk smack about her teammates. I could tell right away that this club was too dramatic based on their leader. From what I could tell, it was led by bullies, and I have seen too many women's clubs go down because of girls like that.
    Is the old team still practicing? If the dramatic members have left, I think they had potential. Everyone else was all about the game, and if Jen is gone, I would be very interested in rejoining!

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  6. In the year I played fot them Liz was very rarely at practice and Jen was always nursing some type of injury. Jen was a generally negative member of the team. The team didn't function well as a group at all. There was a lot of petty arguments and power struggles. I loved the game, disliked the team. There were a few wonderful girls there though. Spooky recruited me and was an amazing mentor and friend, leslie, hank, deedee all were great. Not every woman on the team was bad but there was definitely some issues between the senior players that made it not fun to keep coming to practice.

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  8. ^THIS.
    The part in the article mentioning the "bad attitudes" made me LOL, because Jen was the only bad attitude I saw. She showed up only to bark orders and talk shit about people who I knew to be friendly and dedicated to the sport. I didn't know anyone previous to playing, but spooky was the one who helped run practices, drove me to games, and didn't say a negative thing about anyone personally, whereas Jen did her best to convince me spooky was practically the devil. This whole interview is bullshit- I slmost want to come back to youngstown to help organize a real rugby team with the old girls, instead of a gossip club.

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    1. Sorry deleted it then reposted with my name

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  9. Same experience. I have played colligate and club rugby so naturally I was so excited to find a women's team in Youngstown. Everyone on that team was wonderful except Jen and Liz. They ran that team into the ground by canceling elections to stay in power and then I saw them at practice twice maybe. A practice scheldue that they set and expected everyone else to work around. I drove 40 min one way to practice and sometimes waited hours after school to be standing alone or sitting til dark. The actual active members tried multiple times to set up fundraisers and tournaments only to be shot down by the dictators who had no idea what was happening anyway. But you can be sure that when we all got together that wasn't practice they were their with all the attitude to ruin for everyone. Its sad to see something with potential to be ruined by Jen and Liz's power trip. The "bad attitudes" they reference were simply real ruggers voicing valid issues and concerns that contradicted them. I would love to hear of a strong womes team in Youngstown someday far out of reach of Jen and Liz.

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    1. You are being entirely too nice. I know you're being the bigger person here, but this was an asshole move by a girl who has done nothing but try to destroy you. The things she said to me, who she barely knew, about you, were awful. They don't deserve your support, fight back, get the old team together, and show them how it's done!

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    2. Meg- I appreciate the support, but honestly- I love my life right now. I'm surrounded by awesome people, my kids are thriving, I live with an amazing man who I can't wait to spend my life with, I have a job I actually enjoy and sime truly wonderful friends. I don't need the negativity and drama that comes along with that team. I don't hold any resentment towards liz and Jen, and I wish them the best. I have opportunities to whore out with other teams when the mood strikes, and I don't want to invite any negativity into my life. I'm almost 30, I don't really want to deal with the drama. If they want my help and support, they know how to get ahold of me, and I would be willing, provided the issues get sorted out first. Good luck to them, and that's all I have to say about it.

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  11. Hahaha! Both of these girls are terrible rugby players. Jen WAltman a lifelong athlete- the only way that chick would run a mile was If there was a dick or a piece of cake at the finish line. Dramatic, lazy, and power hungry... either this article is a joke or youngstown rugby has gone majorly downhill. Neither one of them can play worth a damn, and they're both so out of shape it's sickening. This is laughable.

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    1. Nice. Glad you're gone whoever you are

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  12. I'm looking at the replies, and all I can think is that if it feels like everyone else is wrong, then maybe you're the problem. Jen and Liz- look at how many girls you've pushed away from the sport, think of what the team could have been without your unnecessary drama. Please rethink your strategy before you ruin the reputation of the sport

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  13. The only thing unprofessional about this article is the comments coming from jealous bitches who are mad that it's not about them. GROW UP!

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  14. Jealous bitches? How about girls who love rugby and want to see it grow instead of seeing another youngstown team rise and fall?

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  15. Then if you want to see the sport of rugby grow go to create your own team instead of bashing those who are actually contributing to the growth of rugby.

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  17. You guys should recruit Caitlyn Jenner... She is a beast

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  18. Shame on all of you! You dont even have the decency to keep the snarking private while an effort is being made for a fresh start with some young, enthusiastic women. I do believe you just showcased the attitude that killed the spirit of the former club and the reason you weren't asked to help this time. I'm beyond apalled with the personal attacks in such a public format. I was actually hoping you could work together and have 2 clubs focusing on different age groups. By the way, this is Mama so if you want to attack someone, you know the one sponsor who provided unlimited support emotionally and financially, bring it on you spoiled little brats. You only wish you had the character, integrity and heart of a rugger. Again,SHAME on you.

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