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.
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.
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!