Womens Rugby Comes to Dallas
By Suzanne Sprague
DALLAS – (Ambient sound of rugby game with man yelling, "C'mon, ladies! Go! Go!")
Suzanne Sprague, KERA 90.1 Reporter: On a Saturday morning near White Rock Lake, nearly 30 women coated in thick, cold mud grab and push and tackle each other while a few dozen fans cheer them on.
(Ambient sound of crowd cheering, "Push! Push!")
Sprague: This is women's rugby in Dallas.
Rachael Fernadez, Dallas Debutantes: It's pretty awesome. It's a great sport. You get out and play. It's so much different than any other sport that I've played before.
Sprague: 21 year-old Rachael Fernandez is a YMCA lifeguard during the week and a Dallas Debutante on the weekends. As she explains it, the object of the rugby game is a lot like football - move the ball down the field by kicking and passing it. But there are hardly any time outs, and the players don't wear any padding.
Fernandez: You go out. You get hurt. You get right back up and start playing.
Sprague: This brutality has made rugby a favorite sport among men, particularly in England, Australia and along the East Coast. In Dallas, men have been playing club rugby for more than 30 years, although mostly under the radar of sports reporters. The women's coach, Brett Forrester, says the Debutante games are a bit different.
Brett Forrester, Coach, Dallas Debutantes: The pace is a little slower, and they don't have a lot of the bad football habits, though. One of the benefits is they haven't played football, so they don't feel like they have to get one more yard and die with the ball. They're more willing to pass.
Debutantes (yelling): On three. One. Two. Three. Debutantes with lips so red. Don't you know we're hell in bed? Yeah!
Sprague: That's, "Debutantes with lips so red. Don't you know we're hell in bed?" And that's nothing in comparison to what they cheer in the second half.
Dana, Dallas Debutantes: I think it's just kind of defying the stereotype of Dallas women, and I think we do that pretty well. (Laughs) Sprague: Dana is a fellow Debutante and a middle school physics teacher.
Dana: We have people from Mississippi and Massachusetts and New York. I'm from Puerto Rico. It's crazy. It's really fun. Sprague: Team members admit it's hard to lure new female players. Previous women's rugby teams here have disbanded because they couldn't find enough new recruits. But many spectators, like rugby parent Becky Soloman, believe the sport does have a solid future.
Becky Soloman, Rugby Parent: I think it's great that there is a women's rugby. It's like women playing football. Well, women don't play football, either, but it'd be great if all the sports included all the women who wanted to play.
Sprague: However, Soloman does wince at the idea of her daughter playing a sport that frequently results in broken noses and bruised ribs.
Soloman: This morning she goes, "Oh yeah, I have to shave my legs real fast." I said, "Why, you're going out." She says, "Yeah, but if I get gashed up I probably won't be able to shave them." And so I'm going, "Oh great, here she is thinking that beforehand (laughs)."
Sprague: The women's rugby season is capped off in March with The Debutante Ball, when the players finish a local tournament by trading in their jerseys for thrift store ball gowns.
Dana: And we come out here in full dress gear, put makeup on, we have accessories, and cleats. And we play a full rugby game, just divide everyone up in to two teams and play a full rugby game with dresses on. Dresses get torn. You can get extra points for having good accessories if you score, how good your makeup is.
(More rugby cheering.)
Sprague: The Debutantes lost this game, although their spirit was anything but crushed. They have at least eight games left this season and will play in New Orleans this weekend. They'll host the Debutante Ball on St. Patrick's Day. For KERA 90.1, I'm Suzanne Sprague.