Article by Marie Sykes <masykes@Ursinus.edu>
Members of the Ursinus College Women’s Rugby team, Cici Chagnon ’25, Scrum-Half and President, Ze’ev Shaheen ’25, Hooker/Forward and Vice President, and Amelia Grudkowski ’25, Back and Social Media and Recruitment Chair, answered questions for The Grizzly about their season.
When asked when and how they joined the team, all three players said they joined their freshman year. “Some friends asked me to join [so] I thought I’d give it a shot,” Shaheen said. “I wanted to meet new people,” Chagnon answered, “learning a new sport was a lot of fun and I made some of my closest friends on the team, so I stuck with it.” Grudkowski said the players “seemed like really nice people” and that she “missed playing a sport… rugby sounds objectively awesome.”
The team plays in a developmental league of fall 7s (consisting of seven players actively playing on one team) and competitive 7s in the spring, though teams that are large enough play in 15s (with fifteen players) in the fall and 7s in the spring. “It’s more focused on helping people new to the sport learn the rules in a low-pressure environment, which has been great since we’re mainly new people and none of us played rugby before coming to Ursinus,” Chagnon explained.
It’s a goal for the team to be able to play in the competitive 15s, though they do not have enough members for the larger competitions. When asked about what it took to plan for the team, Chagnon said that the “executive board worked hard over the summer brainstorming ways to get people interested, making a social media schedule, and working with the league to make a schedule for the season” and highlighted Grudkowski’s involvement in recruiting players. Their coach is Max Friel, who regularly coaches the White Horse Rugby Club in Phoenixville and has volunteered for the Ursinus Women’s team for ten years now. Shaheen emphasized “a lot of practice is just learning what rugby is. A lot of experienced people are learning new things about the game every day so we stress the importance of asking questions.”
“As a trans guy,” Shaheen said “it’s kind of hard to find my place in a lot of athletic spaces. Sporting leagues are very rarely not split up by gender, so it doesn’t feel like there’s a place for me… With rugby I never got that impression. A representative from both the men’s team and the women’s team approached me and said it doesn’t matter what team you choose; we just want you to play. I chose to play for UCWR because I knew more people on the team. Sometimes I do feel a little out of place as a guy on a women’s team, but UCWR welcomed me with open arms. They respected me, they heard me, and best of all they didn’t see me as “a trans player” they saw me as a rugby player.” National Collegiate Rugby, which Shaheen said actively “preaches” against discrimination against queer players and does “more than what other leagues enforce,” requires athletes to come out before playing and disclose their medical transition. “Players should not be forced to come out because it shouldn’t be the decision of anyone else but the player in question,” Shaheen said. “They shouldn’t be kept from playing for the team of their choice just because some other person tells them they can’t. There are still steps that National Collegiate Rugby can take to make the league safer for players of all identities.”
When asked about advice for those interested in joining the team, Shaheen said that “rugby is one of those sports that really is for everyone. For all body types, for all backgrounds, for all identities. No matter what kind of player you are there is a position for you.” Chagnon continued, saying “come to a practice and bring … friends” and emphasized that new players are welcome to join “at any point in the season [with] no prior rugby experience.” Practices are on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4:30pm at Hunsberger and are open to any interested in the sport.
When asked how Bears can support the team, Shaheen told us that the first home game will be on November 4th at 9am, located at Hunsberger field. Hunsberger Field is located next to the Food Forest on 9th Avenue. Stay up to date on Ursinus Women’s Rugby by following them on Instagram @ucwomensrugby_ and on TikTok @uc_womens_rugby.