Tuesday, July 11, 2017

NW Ohio Rugby Growth: Rise of the Banshees

In recent years the women’s rugby scene had remained stagnant as far as size in the state of Ohio. With few high school and college teams, and even fewer senior level teams, the pool of female players has been woefully under served.

Fortunately, women's teams have been popping up more and more over recent years. The most recent addition is a Northwest Ohio team known as the Black Swamp Banshees.

It's said that nature abhors a vacuum. In the  Northwest Ohio there was a vacuum that needed to be filled - there scarcely any senior women's rugby teams. A group of recent graduates from the University of Findlay took note of this absence and turned to Jim Akroyd as he was assisting with the university's women's rugby team.

“I met a lot of the senior players who were sad that once they graduated there was nothing for them in the Findlay area,” Akroyd said. “A couple of alumni had come to their games and were sad they had no opportunity to play rugby. One Saturday afternoon after a hard game, we sat down and had a team meal. There the idea came to me that ‘why couldn't we start a team up?’”

At the moment of the idea's inception, Akroyd was fully invested as the scrum and lineout coach for the U of F women's team and the Head Coach for Findlay. Once the senior side elected new leadership Akroyd dedicated his full time and attention to the Banshees. In these early stages of the club, Akroyd received help from the current coach at U of F, Jim Haughn, and some dedicated alumni.

The Banshees are starting with a bare bones group right now, but the team has a solid support structure behind them to help get through this initial growing phase. The Findlay men's team has taken the Banshees under its wing so the club can concentrate on growing, rather than things like fundraising. Akroyd and the Banshees are already setting their sights on opportunities to grow and expand.

“Right now we have around ten ladies who have said they want to play,” Akroyd said. “This is just from word of mouth. We will have a booth at the local county fair to recruit more players.”

Once the team is established the Banshees will be more than an opportunity for Findlay alumni to come and extend - and I'm some cases relive - their glory days. The Banshees will be community focused, inside and out.

“I want the team to become family, a place where if the day-to-day struggles become a burden that the spirit within the team will encourage players to keep on going,” Akroyd said. “The legacy will be one of showing that hard work on the training field can reward you with a bountiful harvest of blessings.”

Akroyd and the Banshees are eager to share the bounty that rugby has to offer. The team is open to any woman that wants to learn and playing the sport. That welcoming and inclusive attitude is present in the team's name  -the Banshees. According to myths, banshees came in all shapes and sizes; and the Banshees of the Black Swamp will be no different. Interested players can find mor information about the team through its Facebook page

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