I’m not talking about rugby in general. But rugby played by women. Personally, I don’t think of myself as playing a special sport called ‘women’s rugby’ - I play rugby with women against women. Adult rugby played by women and men is played under exactly the same laws, same length of time, same pitch. But the fact is...women’s rugby is a minority sport.
And women’s rugby is a relatively new sport, but growing. Perhaps the most important date is 2015 when England hosts the Men’s Rugby World Cup...and more eyes will be on the sport in general...so a great opportunity to get more eyes on women’s rugby - and social media can play a big part in that.
But there are some dangers in using social media...and it needs to be used well.
Not to draw too much attention to the negative and YouTube is notorious for vile, but women athletes often face comments like these... focusing on negative stereotypes. Too manly and not manly enough! So when sharing content, we need to be careful about moderation and context.
That being said...there are huge advantages to using social media more effectively. It is a niche audience, and social media can reach those places. And although there is some broadcast of women’s rugby... more could be done to make it available over the Internet. But more importantly an opportunity to evidence the great community at all levels - to allow higher level athletes to engage openly with fans and an opportunity to show women and girls at all levels playing the game and having a good time.
There are already some examples of good digital communications - player run sites like ScrumQueens or YourScrumHalfConnection and dedicated Twitter streams from the International Governing bodies...
And of course great sites like these run by a player...but these sites are largely for the initiated and don’t set out to engage potential players. (On a side note, the new scrum cadence is growing on me!)
We need to engage talented players and former players to create campaigns like these. This one was designed by a former ASU player who wanted to give back to her team. The aim of the campaign was to recruit members to the team but also to raise awareness of the sport on campus and to gain more support and attendance for matches. It was hugely successful and these images have gone viral over the net...they’ve been used by other teams or teams have created copycat images. They turn the stereotypes of feminine weakness on their head while showing strong attractive women.
At the same time, we need to be careful about what kind of slick images we produce. Although I have a great deal of sympathy for the Canadian national team who sold this calendar to raise much needed funds to attend the next World Cup and getting your kit off isn’t entirely inconsistent with rugby culture in general (there are many similar images of men) there’s a fine line to tread. Female rugby players can and should be presented as attractive - we do clean up pretty good - but overly sexualised images of female athletes doesn’t attract the kind of attention we want and probably doesn’t do much to attract new players either.
It’s much more important at the grass roots level to share images like these from Wimbledon RFC, my club - of women and girls playing rugby and having a great time with teammates. Social media can help these everyday women tell their stories about what they get from playing rugby and recruit new players to the sport - thus enhancing the player talent pool and introducing women to one fo the few team sports which has a place for everyone. So we need support from our governing bodies to get women skilled at telling and sharing those stories as well as passing, rucking and mauling.
And you can see some great women’s rugby this week...including those Canadian Calendar girls...wearing a bit more clothing.
first documented women’s rugby match under Union code
first women’s rugby club established
first women’s rugby international
first Olympic women’s rugby 7s
Senior Women’s clubs in England
University and women’s clubs in UK
Active women registered with RFU
Women and girls playing regularly in England
I have something against women with big
muscles. It’s just…not womanly
What a fine body of men these “women” are
Rofl. Womens rugby. Wouldn’t be surprised
if they all complained about breaking a nail of
[sic] getting a little bruise.
GASH RUGBY!!! Womens rugby is an absolute
joke they should be working in the kitchen cooking
Comments from the highlights of the 2010 Women’s World Cup Finals on YouTube
• Niche audiences
• “Cheap” air time
• Opportunity for athletes to
speak directly to fans
• Opportunity to show women
athletes as skilled and capable
Arizona State campaign
images from Canadian National Team 2013 Calendar