Foxes center acceptance, team in womxn’s rugby

Adeena Liang runs with the ball while an opponent attempts to stop her.
Adeena Liang PO ’23 sprints ahead with the ball as an opponent attempts to tackle her en route to their National Championship victory over San Diego State University last spring. Courtesy: Claremont Foxes Women’s Rugby

The Foxes are women playing contact-heavy sports, championship-winning athletes that are competitive but not cut-throat and fearsome teammates but also best friends. Breaking down stereotypes is what they do best. 

Expanding on their impressive track record, the Claremont Foxes Womxn’s Rugby won the 2022 Dll national championship last spring and are in pre-season for the spring. The team is hoping to build on last year’s success while still cultivating a welcoming environment, according to Sage Fletcher PZ ’23. 

“We do want to repeat a national title, but at the same time, we are trying to build a really strong foundation with our rookie players,” Fletcher said. 

Welcoming new players is a core part of the Foxes culture, and for Asia Anderson SC ’23, it was love at first practice. When she was a first year, an upperclassman she met through Scripps’ Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE) convinced her to join.  

“I played a lot of sports in high school — I was a three sport athlete. Coming into college, I didn’t really know what my place was [without sports],” Anderson said. “I went to a lot of SCORE meetings … and one of the upperclassmen who I was friends with talked to me every day about joining rugby. I was kinda iffy about it, but then I went to my first practice, and the next thing I knew I was buying cleats … ever since then I’ve been addicted to it.”

Caroline Bullock CM ’24 had a similar experience. An athlete throughout high school, Bullock said as a first year, she was looking to play sports and build community. A former coach of the Foxes spotted Bullock at the club fair in Fall 2020 and convinced her to go to her first practice. 

Just like Anderson, she was hooked. 

“Growing up in sports, I was always a very physical player to the point where a lot of people made jokes about me joining the football team, me being a man — and almost [in] a derogatory sense,” Bullock said. “Rugby was the first time I felt like I was accepted as a female athlete entirely for who I was.”

Rugby was the first time I felt like I was accepted as a female athlete entirely for who I was.

According to Bullock, rugby allows women to be “feminine badasses” due to its nature as a potentially dangerous, physical sport. As a result, Fletcher said many people create sexist stereotypes about women who play rugby. However, she added that being able to play such a sport and break-down these stereotypes is empowering. 

“A lot of people believe that women can’t play contact-heavy sports,” Fletcher said. “I think it’s really, really empowering that we get out there, and we hit people hard, we tackle people low [and] we have a good time.”

Although the team is competitive, they find a way to strike a balance between focus and fun, according to Anderson.  

“Our club is very competitive,” Anderson said. “We want to build a culture of winning but with our best friends next to us. Rugby taught me how important it is to have a community. School demands so much of you, but you have four hours a week where you’re just dedicated to rugby and hanging out with your friends and [you] get out all of your energy.”

The team practices on Mondays and Thursdays, with an optional team lift once a week. Anyone is welcome to join, regardless of skill or past experience. Because the team is “no-cuts,” members are sorted into A and B teams, allowing players of similar skill to play together. The roster for the different teams, however, is not set in stone, as players on the B side can work their way up to the A team.

Bullock said she appreciates the team being open to anyone because it produces a diverse group. 

“The best thing about a club sport is that you get girls that are absolutely dedicated to the max, and you have girls that are just there for the social part — and literally every single person on that spectrum is welcome,” Bullock said.

The community cultivated on the field transcends the weekly practices and games through social events scheduled regularly to increase bonding. Along with hanging out casually, the Foxes plan trips such as camping in Joshua Tree, beach days and parties.

Bullock said the Foxes community is better than she could have imagined. 

“I think rugby has been the most beautiful, welcoming team that I could ever hope to be a part of,” Bullock said. “As a woman who has been looked down and teased upon for her muscular body, it’s been phenomenal for me to finally find a place that’s safe and a place where I can continue to break stereotypes of what a female athlete is.”

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