Kate McCabe, our current assistant coach and BUWRFC alum, has been up to big things this past spring. She started a girls’ rugby team at Belmont High School where she currently teaches. The sport is not new to the school as there has been a boys’ team for the past nine years. There has always been some interest shown from the girls; in the past a few girls even played with the boys team. But this year was different, twenty girls signed up and the boys coach asked Kate to start a girls side!
Kate has always had a connection to rugby; it’s in her blood! Her father played in college and when she attended SPLASH as a freshman, she was drawn to the rugby table and signed up. After playing for BU, continued playing for Boston Women’s. There were several BU players on the team the year before she joined, most notably her freshman year captain Kristin Howley (BU ’02) and one of her best friends, Heidi Schmerbeck (BU ’03).
“That connection from my collegiate side to the women’s senior side helped me decide to continue playing – because I followed players that I looked up to at BU. It was one of the best decisions of my life. And when I look at BU players on Boston Women’s today – I feel so proud to be a part of such a great tradition of dedicated BU athletes”
In 2011 the club president, Julie Athanasiadis BU’11, reached out to Kate looking for volunteers to work with the team. And just like that, Kate became our assistant coach! Although rugby is life, some of us have to make a living and get a job in the real world. Kate has been a social studies teacher for 11th and 12th graders at Belmont High School for nine years.
Now her professional life and rugby life have collided into the Belmont rugby football club! When I asked Kate about any obstacles she faced like lack of field time, lack of funding (common BU problems), she said it wasn’t a problem for her and her team.
“I have to say – the girls at Belmont has been truly lucky to be embraced by such an accepting rugby community in the Belmont Rugby Club. When I started this year, I wasn’t alone because all the coaches and parents that support the boys team, immediately supported the new girls team.”
Kate’s team had the opportunity to practice with the boys’ team during preseason. Working with a team that has already been established for 9 years means that there was access and support for field space, equipment, jerseys and even coaching for the girls.
Besides the support from the Belmont boys’ team, BU Women’s Rugby and Boston Women’s have helped tremendously along the way. Kate was able to reach out to recent grads Ashley Donahue and Deanna Nash (BU ’14). They have been putting in their time to help with practices and are even continuing to work with the girls over the summer. In addition, Boston Women’s Rugby Club and BU Women’s Rugby Club collaborated to do a small clinic for the girls in May – and everyone had a blast! The surrounding high school girl rugby teams have also been so helpful and supportive – working with the girls and helping them set the groundwork for a competitive team in the future. The amount of support really says a lot about the rugby community.
The girls had one scrimmage to cap off their first season. Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School hosted her squad in a b-side scrimmage. The coach of this team was actually a Boston Women’s alum; she was very welcoming and accommodating. The girls had a blast and walked away with a tied match 10-10. Next year Kate hopes to have a full season with multiple games. The girls even told her they want to win the state championship in 2018!
When I asked Kate how rugby could help these girls with their future, she had a lot to say. She worded it so beautifully that I am not going to even attempt to summarize this…
“I think rugby helps everyone that plays it – but it does amazing things for women. As a young player – rugby felt empowering to me, as I often came across people impressed that I would want to play the tough contact sport. Every year when I watch new collegiate players start rugby, or veterans gain mastery in skills that eluded them as beginners – and now as I see high schoolers picking up this game – I’m struck by how much we gain in a sport that demands a player take ownership for their body and mindset. You are rewarded for playing hard, for being fierce, strong, fast, tough and smart. Everyone, of every size and ability, finds a job on the team and that job is necessary to success at the end of the game. You cannot win with one superstar – you need everyone to work together – and that makes some of the tightest bonds imaginable as you build friendships that are founded in trust, honor, and faith in each other. The rugby community is an amazing one to be a part of – no matter where you are in the world – the rugby community is something you can reach out to – a local club to play with when you’re traveling the world – a local team to join when you move across the country – a college team that you continue to support long after graduation – this family is unlike any other sport I’ve ever played. I have been so proud to be a rugby player for the last 12 years of my life – I’m also so proud to bring this game to new players as a coach long after I stop playing.
One of my high school players wrote me a thank you note that said: “I love playing rugby because it makes me feel strong. People looked at me like I couldn’t play because I’m small, and I love being able to prove that I’m stronger than anyone thought.” — That player has already discovered strength that she always had. It’s sometimes tough to test yourself but doing it anyway and believing in your own potential, not matter what anyone else thinks – shows tremendous strength of character. She is powerful – physically and mentally. Every rugby player is. And that strength is an amazing thing to take into the world with us…”