By Christina Flores-Chan
When second-year Ryerson student Lola Peric is on the rugby field, amid the blaring noise of her surroundings and under the pressure of the game, she focuses her mind on one thing: her team.
Peric says that in high school, it was the support and positivity of the community around her that got her through each 80-minute match, as the women chased the ball—and the win—together.
She felt that familiar sense of community coming back to her on Aug. 30 at the first-ever Rams women’s rugby club practice. After a year-long hiatus from her sport, Peric was right back where she left off prior to the pandemic and she wasn’t alone in missing the feeling while it was gone. It’s a common sentiment in rugby.
“Rugby is all about acceptance and family,” said Brittany Douglas, the club’s head coach. “You need players of all different shapes and sizes and this opens up the team to be accepting of everyone.”
The club was co-founded by Peric and Rams men’s rugby player Shane Dixon back in early 2021. Soon, what started as a Google interest form and Instagram account, grew into an official competitive club with a full roster.
“Without high school or club teams to scout from, we have relied more heavily on social media and word of mouth to find players,” Douglas said. “It helps build the platform required to get the team started.”
The team’s Instagram account currently has over 180 followers and according to Douglas, is the reason people are still reaching out to join the team to this day.
“Rugby is all about acceptance and family, you need players of all different shapes and sizes”
As for the team itself, the Rams women’s rugby club now boasts a full roster of 30 women, all with varying levels of experience in the sport.
“We started from scratch, so this year is more of a developmental stage for us. Some girls have played club or high school rugby and some haven’t played ever,” said Peric. “But the rugby community is so open and positive and I wanted to bring that to the school.”
Following a week-long training camp at the end of August, the club has begun its fall development program where players go through skill-building, conditioning and continue to build connections as a team.
For Douglas, building chemistry between the players is what matters most ahead of the first game in October. This belief stems from the 18 years she spent playing rugby and her time coaching Ontario U16 and U18 (Under 16 and Under 18) teams, as well as at Trent University.
“No matter what, my teammates always had my back. They made it feel like home whenever I stepped onto the field,” said Douglas. “Now, as a coach, I try to create that same environment.”
The rest of the team shares the same sentiment.
“[Playing] Rugby was the first time that I actually worked with a team, and though at the beginning it was difficult to get used to leaning on others for support, I have come to love the feeling of being on a team,” said Sam Tinajero-Alvarado, a third-year media production student who joined the club after finding them on Instagram.
Tinajero-Alvarado played the sport in high school and said she couldn’t wait to get back on the field after the team’s training camp and according to Tinajero-Alvarado, neither could the rest of the team.
“I was really happy to see everyone having fun at training,” Dixon said. “I can’t wait to watch the women’s program progress and I’m bouncing off the excitement I can feel from [Douglas] and [Peric] when they talk about it.”
The Rams women’s rugby team kick off their inaugural season on Oct. 2, when they take on the Queen’s Gaels in Kingston, Ont.