Bold, Buff and Beautiful – Rugby Girls Rock

No one who knows me believes that my first love was not basketball, but football, American football (not what the rest of the world calls football, and we call soccer).  I longed to play the game reserved for boys only.

The greatest thrill of my athletic career was not breaking scoring records or winning basketball championships, but playing right offensive end in our powder puff football game the night before homecoming 1974.

In a tied ball game, with 58 seconds left on the clock, my BF Peggy “Super Crunch” Dietz and her defensive line stopped the ball at our 2-yard line.  Another good buddy, QB Chrissie “Iron Arm” hit me with a perfect spiral on the sideline. I ran 98 yards to victory, spiked the ball in the end zone and danced under the stars.

For one night I felt invincible in the glory of Friday Night Lights.

So naturally, thirty-five years later, no one cheered louder than me when my niece Hannah, started playing rugby.  Rugby?  Yup, you betcha. Cute blondes in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, getting down and dirty, hitting hard, laughing loud, locking arms, and building bonds.

Hannah joined the team her junior year, learned the rules on the fly and found out, oh yeah, girls hit hard, too. Long-legged Hannah became the girl they throw in the air as the Robbinsdale Armstrong defending state champions returned for a repeat.

jumping for the ball

jumping for the ball

As a grassroots club team, not yet recognized as a high school sport, the no-glory girls fought for recognition, raised their own money for red and blue uniforms, and traveled in family vans to compete in tournaments.

Rugby is the ultimate team sport. Last year’s team graduated 13 of 15 starters.  “Your bench has to be as good as what you have on the field,” Coach Hanson said.  And they were.  Last week, Armstrong girls rugby entered the tournament undefeated and claimed the crown.

Tim Nolan’s Robbinsdale girls’rugby club, started in 2004, was ahead of the game and like Sterling High School girls’ basketball in the 70’s, developed into a state powerhouse. In 1977, my sister, Karen, played for Sterling in first state girls high school championship. Now Mom and daughter can boast of being state champs in the infancy of their respective sports.

But what really tickled me pink was the fan club. Proud rugby dads with painted faces and red-tinted hair, cheered on daughters who loved to tackle.

proud parents

proud parents

Hannah bejeweled in a purple gown, gossamer slippers and hair coiffed in a French braid, was a Prom night princess one weekend and hit the dirt wearing a mouth guard and headgear the next.

It’s a win-win situation.  Bold, buff and beautiful! Today girls can paint nails, lead cheers and body slam.  Too cool!

Posted in education, sport.


  1. Hey Patti, My brother in law coaches Hopkins, my sister played in college, my nephew played for the US under 20 National Team, my niece plays for the under 20 Women’s National team and now is within a hair of making the US Olympic 7’s team. Rugby will finally be recognized as an Olympic sport! I wouldn’t be caught dead on the field but I do love to watch it. Yeah, girls Rugby and congratulations to your niece.

    • Bonjour Delana,
      So cool about your rugby lovin’ family, esp. the niece & the US Olympic 7’s team. Exciting stuff!!! Keep checking your blog & wondering when you are coming back? Can’t wait to read you!

  2. This sport continues to open doors for young ladies and as the word gets out, more and more of them are finding out that they enjoy the fast pace, hard hitting rugby game. Great words here and I sure wish you could have been there in person cheering both teams on in the finals- YOU were there in spirit.

    Carl’s Dad
    (one very proud papa)

    • Congratulations to the proud Papa! i am sure that your influence, as a former athlete and as a soccer coach, helped to ingrain the love of the fitness and competition in both of your sporty daughters.

  3. I’m so impressed with Hannah and know she appreciates the legacy of her family roots in sports. What a long way we’ve come since our high school days (almost 40 years ago!) I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts with wonderful writing, Pat!

    • Thanks Patty! The Mac/Carlson blood made a good mix, along with fine parenting (not to mention a wonderful team of grans/aunts/uncles & cousins) So thrilled that our daughters, nieces and (one day granddaughter ) may enjoy so many of the benefits of athletics!

  4. What a great story of triumph! Having grown up in the era before girls’ sports were accepted and having lived the dream of seeing my own daughter dominate the courts and softball fields of her high school and college days, I totally appreciate your niece, Hannah’s, accomplishment. How rewarding for you to see the tangible results of all your hard work in Hannah’s shining moment. Great post, great writing, great story! Thanks for sharing.You earned yourself another tweet 🙂 Write On!

    • Thanks Kathy! I am still marveling at how far girls’ sports has come and so grateful my daughter, nieces and the athletes that I have coached had the opportunity to learn the character-building lessons on the court and field.

  5. Sista,
    This blog, this women in sport journey and This WINNING STATE feeling! The Armstrong Team, parents and supporters are still riding the Wave! And yes a part of you was playing on the field seen through Hanners long arms and fingers in those lineouts! Thanks for being a pioneer in women’s sports back in the 70’s…..would not be where we are today without role models like you!

    • From SHS to ISU to UWSP to AHS to STOUT….it has been a joy to watch our daughters rise to the challenges of the 21st century. Having you lil’ sister tagging along beside me every step of the way, has made the journey oh so sweet, in spite of all the obstacles!

  6. Hey, BFF, how cool is that. Tell Karen and Hannah congrats! You know we would’ve been in the scrum if we could’ve been many years ago. We were just grateful to play on the Powder Puff team! It must run in the Sterling genes–our youngest, Derek, played on U. of Iowa’s Rugby team! I must admit, it was easier watching my boyfriend playing football all those years than it was watching my son play rugby. Not sure if it was the lack of pads or natural maternal instinct to protect an offspring!


    • Oh yes, I rather take my own beating under the boards any day, than see anyone foul my kid. But as you know it’s those hard hits on the playing field that toughen us up for real life blows. Coming from Peach/Dietz & McKinzie/Carson/Lechault bloodlines, no wonder our kids like to mix it up! A bientot my BFF. Yockway!

  7. It’s great to see girls who aren’t afraid to break through the boundaries and just go for what they love. Sounds like your niece is pretty fierce! 🙂

  8. When I was in high school, they didn’t have much for us girls. We played ping pong and learned to square dance! I wonder how much more fearless the girls are nowadays – I hope they feel more able to compete with the guys in the workplace, for example, as a result of having grown comfortable with team sports early on.

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