Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Whirlwind of Rugby Emotions

What a FIVE DAYS it's been for the rugby world, especially in the United States.

...FIVE DAYS.

.......IT HASN'T EVEN BEEN A WEEK YET.

Being able to go to a bar or chill out at home with rugby on the TV screen is an absolute dream come true. It's even better to then go onto social media and see all the various discussions happening about rugby at the same time, people are treating USA rugby like the important sport it is! To top it off, the women's team has ladies that I've had the pleasure to meet and the men's team has some phenomenal stories as well...including NATE EBNAH FROM THE PATS KEHD. FAHKIN' SWEET!!!!


...but as excited and PUMPED my emotions have been with all this rugby hype...

...they have been met by equal amounts of RAGE and despair.


First area of rage: TV broadcasting
A fundraiser we did for the North Shore men's and women's rugby teams was this past weekend we hosted an Olympic Viewing Party. Our sponsorship bar generously let us use their TV's and projector screen to show the women's rugby games the first day they played on Saturday. We were there bright and early ready to rock n' roll since the women's rugby started at 10am...
...only to realize that the TV planned on showing ONE FRIGGIN' WOMEN'S RUGBY GAME. ONE. THAT'S IT. [until the next round at 3pm].

We had to run out to an electronics shop and grab some fancy pants cables to hook up to the projector and get the other games running that were being streamed online. It was annoying, stressful, and frustrating all at the same time..but EVENTUALLY we figured it out and watched some DAMN GOOD RUGBY.

Then come Tuesday, the men's rugby starts. I sighed and went to get my computer set up to watch the rugby games, however when I turned on the TV to the Olympics...to my pleasant surprise a non-USA rugby game was on! And another! And another!!! And then the USA!!!!! I got to watch ALL the rugby right on da TV! What a treat!

Halftime comes on in the men's game, and they bring on a dude that the announcers called a "rugby expert." Then I hear the word "NFL" mentioned with his name, and I think either "oh dammit" or "oh there's more ex-rugby players in the NFL?" The dude says "Yeah I got to play some rugby in London once..."

Did the TV people just think, "Erm well we've got this NFL player that played rugby once so let's throw him on the TV since he actually knows what a rugby ball looks like and call it a day" rather than ACTUALLY looking for a rugby expert???? I totally understand the attempt to compare and contrast rugby to football [something very popular in the US that everyone knows] so people connect with it more and understand it a little better, but COME ON.

Just....COME ON.

Second area of rage: Local newspaper

My boyfriend, who plays for the North Shore Men's team, texted me this morning about how he was interviewed by the local newspaper about rugby. I was SO FREAKIN' EXCITED for him [and I still am, he had some great things to say in the article!], especially when he texted me the link to the article [click here to read it].

I read the article, and I was so excited to see my boyfriend's name and quotes in the article, and I was so excited to see Nate Ebner mentioned, I was so excited to see local rugby and the sport of rugby in general being talked about....but then tears swelled up in my eyes when the US women's rugby team got TWO LOUSY SENTENCES in the beginning of the article and the North Shore Women's Rugby team got ZERO MENTION in the article. The article wrote about the North Shore Men's team and interviewed two players from that team, but the North Shore Women are completely and utterly MIA. There's a lot of different explanations for this. My boyfriend immediately texted me apologizing that North Shore Women's rugby wasn't mentioned in the article when we should've been, but there's a whole lot of reasons for why this could've happened. NONE of them are acceptable reasons, nor are they excuses for leaving out the women's team in the article, however it's a prime example of how left out women's rugby is from discussions about the sport of rugby in general.

I read the article a hundred times more, and the problem with the article wasn't as much it being geared towards men's rugby as it was just completely NOT mentioning women's rugby. It was a general article about rugby, listing the rules and the greatness of the sport and why it's gonna continue to grow in the States. Everything my boyfriend and his teammate said about rugby is just as applicable to women's rugby, however the real problem is...

NOBODY FREAKIN' KNOWS THAT.

Yes, everything the article talked about with the rules and the greatness of the sport is true for women's rugby, but people don't have a friggin' clue. NOT. A. CLUE. They either don't know women's rugby exists or they think the rules are different for women, when they're NOT. NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT. Maybe the reporter didn't even know there was a North Shore Women's Rugby team [even though they wrote an article about me and rugby a year and a half ago that mentioned North Shore Women's Rugby]. But it goes along with the fact that women's sports are just an aftermath thought, forgotten about, "whoopsie we forgot to include the women's team," just plain 'ol considered "less than" men in sports. But rugby sets up the world to think otherwise from how identical the sport is for men and women. There are other sports as well that are equal for men and women, however especially when it comes to a high contact sport like rugby, it really defies people's expectations.


Soooo anyways, I wrote to the newspaper, and this was my response:

Hello!

My name is Katherine Gorham, I am a captain of the North Shore Women's Rugby team, and just wanted to contact you in response to an article that was published today: http://www.itemlive.com/sports/lynn-ruggers-hope-olympics-help-sport-grow/

I, along with all of my teammates, am thrilled to see rugby in the news and in the Olympics. In general, it has been a long struggle to get rugby back on the public's radar in the United States. I'm especially happy for the mention of the local rugby here on the North Shore and for the interviews that occurred with two of the men's players [one of them, Tom Moore, is my significant other!]. 
However, my thrill and excitement is also met with disappointment as our North Shore Women's team had no mention nor representation in the great article about rugby. I appreciate the beginning of the article giving a slight mention to the US women's team and the women's rugby results in general, however our Division 2 North Shore Women's Rugby team is just as up and running as the North Shore Reds. I am concerned that labeling the North Shore Rugby Club as the North Shore Reds, which is the men's team [the women are the North Shore Monsoons], along with interviewing two men's players, gives the impression that we don't exist and that women's rugby is not considered part of the rugby realm. 
Women's rugby meets many of the sexist struggles that occur throughout women's sports, however rugby is one of the most gender neutral sports out there. People have asked me and many of my teammates, "When there's women is it coed tag?...do women REALLY tackle?...it's like flag football right? There's not as much contact in women's rugby right?" Wrong. All wrong. Literally the only difference between men's and women's rugby is the gender that's on the field. It's the same set of laws, same ball, same field, same dimensions, same level of intensity, same level of passion, and same level of contact. We hit just as hard as the men, if not harder. 
On the North Shore and in the Boston area, women's rugby in particular is known across the nation as being top notch. Beantown women's rugby and Boston women's rugby have both made national levels of competition multiple years in a row. Our North Shore team is in a different division, however we have still competed with both of those teams in various tournaments and had the privilege of being able to play against such experienced teams. We ourselves have women on our team of all different ages and skill levels. We have women from Division 1 college teams, from elite teams that play internationally, and even women who have just picked up the sport entirely within the past year. 
I wish I didn't even have to point out women's rugby being excluded, because whenever the sport of rugby is talked about it should be known that the same things are done by men and women alike. Unfortunately, the United States hasn't reached this level of awareness yet, and women's rugby in general needs more of a push and more recognition since people seem to think that it's somehow "less than" what occurs in men's rugby.We need to get women's rugby on an equal playing level as men's rugby, because they are the exact same sport and phenomena. Many women don't even know that not only is women's a rugby a sport, but they have the potential to be great at it. As far as the sport of rugby has to go to be recognized in the states, women's rugby has to go a step further. 

Please let me know if you have any questions or want to know any additional information! I could talk about rugby forever, I even have a blog about it called The Rugby Diaries hahaha. 

Thanks!

I'm not even sure if anything is gonna come from that email, but I know I at least needed to say something. Right now, women's rugby needs more of a shout out. Although men's and women's rugby are the same exact sport, the women have an entire other hurdle to jump over. When discussing rugby, we need to make more of a conscious effort to say "the sport of rugby, for men and women, is..." just to ingrain it into people's heads. It's not fun and it sucks, but that's just the way the world is right now. We need to set the bar straight. Hopefully there will be a day where we can go back to just saying "the sport of rugby is...." and people automatically knowing it's referencing men and women alike. Until then, we need to make an extra step to include the women and show that they are hitting just as hard and working just as hard as the men in rugby do. 



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rugby Journaling

Because the rugby team I'm on didn't have our regular outdoor practice tonight, I figured I would get into some soul searching in the rugby realm and share with the rugby community so that everyone could have an opportunity for a lil' self-reflection.













Rugby seasons are very interesting to look at individually. Different things in your outside life can affect your game on the field, because as well all know....rugby is a lifestyle. There's a million and one different excuses we can make for not doing our best...at the same time there's a million and one things we can attribute our success to...and I think it's helpful to outline both of those things for yourself so you know what works for you, what doesn't work for you, and what you need to do to move forward.












I'm gonna list some questions below to fill up your plates with some food for thought - I'm not even gonna write my own answers here because they don't really matter as much as you coming up with your own answers! Write 'em down or think in your head [or think out loud like Ed Sheeran if you prefer].



Rugby Reflection Questions

1. What season of rugby are you currently in? At this point, how long have you been playing for?

2. What team are you playing for? Have you played with this team before or have you started with a new team?

3. What do you like about the team you play for?

4. What do you wish was different about the team you play for?

5.  What position[s] have you been playing? New or old [or both?!]?

6. Do you think you have improved at all this season? If so, where have you improved and what has made you improve? If not, what do you think you can do to start improving?

7.  What are three concrete goals that you would like to accomplish in this season?
Goal #1: 
Goal #2:
Goal #3:

8. What are three concrete things that you can do to accomplish your goals this season?
Thing #1:
Thing #2:
Thing #3:

9. What has been your biggest highlight this past season?

10. What has been your biggest challenge this past season?

Side Note: If you don't already have a rugby journal, I HIGHLY suggest you invest in one! Not only do I [obviously] have my own rugby blog, but I also have a physical rugby journal that doubles/triples/quadruples as a place to write down rugby drills, journal about rugby goals, doodle pictures about motivating rugby things or thoughts or idea, scrapbook random rugby keepsakes like plane tickets to tournaments or photos or even directions to a field, and then be a freakin' awesome book to look back on and refer too all the time!!!


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Papa Joe

This past week, the world lost one of the most incredible human beings known in the history of man.

Papa Joe Klink

To say Papa Joe has influenced my life is the understatement of the century, it's even an understatement to say he's influenced every person he's ever met. While we are all deeply saddened that Papa Joe physically isn't here anymore to crack jokes, throw snowballs at us, or play tennis with us...he's a legend. He's going to live on forever - his idiosyncrasies and phrases will go down in history and be passed on as proverbs. But I know that if there's anywhere that I would pay tribute to my grandfather, it would be on my rugby blog....because he's the one that introduced me to rugby in the first place. If it weren't for him, this rugby blog might not exist...my rugby career might not exist...and I may have NEVER found the love of my life.
Papa Joe and his grandchildren were 11 peas in a pod [there's 10 of us total between my mom and her 3 siblings]. Since birth, he's been the #1 fan of anything we possibly did in our lives. 
...sometimes, as a kid I didn't feel that all the time.
I was very competitive in sports. I had a lot of tough critics in life, myself being the toughest. I never seemed to be good enough. For a while I even got cut from a lot of sports teams. 
But "bookies don't pay off at halftime..."
Papa Joe took my cousins, my siblings and I out to so many different playgrounds and parks and sporting events. He must've had a complete dead arm at the end of some play dates from how many tennis balls he pitched to us during batting practices. He drove us and what seemed like half of our team sometimes to practices and games. Wherever we were, he was front and center. Even at the softball state finals [shown below] he somehow miraculously ended up on the infield to snap the perfect picture of the moment. That's what he was all about...capturing moments, seizing the day. 
"It just doesn't get any better than this..."
In the many times in my life where the pressure was on, and I seemed to be surrounded by stress and negativity, Papa Joe was that shining light. We would walk in on him at his "breakfast club" in Nahant, updating all of his buddies on what his grandson did last night, his granddaughter did last week, and his other granddaughter is doing tomorrow. He always made me [and everyone else] feel wanted, accepted, and special. 
When I was about 10 years old, Papa Joe took me to Harvard for the millionth time to walk around the beautiful campus, see the old buildings, and maybe even sneak into an event for free because he LITERALLY knew everyone. On one fateful day at Harvard, Papa Joe walked me over to a rugby game. 

[sorry the drawing is a little shaky...it was hard to draw it out and not get emotional doing it]
I had NO idea at the time what we were looking at. I literally thought all of the players in a scrum were hugging each other, and I thought it was the strangest sport I had ever seen. But I remembered that one moment. I remembered that one moment all the way up until college, when I saw a sign for women's rugby as I was moving into my dorm. I thought, "OH MY GOSH....THAT'S THE SPORT PAPA JOE SHOWED ME ALMOST 10 YEARS AGO...I'VE GOTTA CHECK IT OUT."
...of course the rest is history. The girls at the women's rugby table were friendly off the bat and sucked me right in. At the time I was slated for Division I softball, had my game footage submitted and everything. But I dropped it to give rugby a go, and it was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. And I would have NEVER even been faced with that decision if it weren't for Papa Joe. 
It's been hard sometimes for my parents to watch me play due to some brutal injuries. Some people were disappointed that I didn't stick with the softball, and didn't really understand why I had made such an abrupt change. But Papa Joe supported me the entire way. He talked up my rugby career and even made the trek out to Buffalo, NY for one of my games.
"DON'T EMBARRASS THE FAMILY NAME!"
He most certainly made sure I didn't! I still remember him telling people, "KATIE'S GONNA GO TO THE OLYMPICS FOR RUGBY, MY GRANDKIDS ARE ALL GONNA MAKE ME FAMOUS." 
,,,no Papa Joe, you did that to yourself. You made yourself a legend through your selfless heart, passion for meeting new people, and ability to tell an absolutely amazing joke. You'll be with me every step I take, and you'll be there to remind my future children
"....YOU'RE SWINGIN', I DON'T CARE IF YOU STRIKE OUT BUT YOU'RE GOIN' DOWN SWINGIN'!!"