With the snow finally beginning to disappear, the Rams Girls Rugby team is eager to get on the field. Coach Jay Whitehead said the team has been practicing indoors for a few months now and hopes the long winter will pass soon so the competitive season can start in earnest.
Usually, the season runs from whenever the snow leaves to the end of May. In the past, that has given time for about six weeks of playing rugby, said Whitehead. However, the past few years there has only been time for about four weeks.
“Due to the snow hanging around, it’s been a bit shorter.”
The Rams play in the Central Alberta High School Rugby League which includes teams from Red Deer, Rocky Mountain House, Rimbey, Olds and Lacombe.
This year, the team has a nice mix of veterans and rookies, with slightly more numbers on the veteran end. Whitehead said the new players are developing well.
“I’ve been impressed so far with the new girls.” He added the more experienced players on the team have done a fantastic job of mentoring the younger ones and bringing them up to speed.
Madison Webb, a third-year veteran on the team, also said the team is improving and the younger players are developing well. “I think it’s looking good so far,” said Webb. “Even since we started practicing in the gym, there have been improvements.”
“I think it’s like any other season, they are getting the concepts down pretty quickly.”
He added that, no matter how well the team performs in practice, the first game is always difficult and so he hopes to have an exhibition game, slated for April 29, before the season actually starts.
“They forget everything they have been learning over six weeks,” said Whitehead. He added that it will be the Rams’ second game where they will actually be playing truer to their skill level.
“You never know how the first game is going to be until you play it,” added Webb.
Whitehead said so far, the team’s strengths seem to be speed, rucking and passing.
On the other hand, he said aggression is one trait the girls will really have to develop to be successful.
“I think that is probably where we have been weak the last year or so,” said Whitehead.
Overall though, the team gets along well and works well as a cohesive unit.
This is Whitehead’s fifth year coaching and the team’s fifth year in existence. He has been able to watch the team develop over the last few seasons and said he believes they are still the newest team in the league after five years.
Whitehead said the team has improved greatly going from no wins the first year, to having a few wins in later years to just missing a shot at provincials last season. He added this kind of record is about what you would expect from a brand new team.
“The first few years are always kind of teaching them and getting the basics.” He added he believes the team is now at a point where they have the fundamentals and can focus more on playing a higher competitive game.
Webb added the team’s cohesiveness is one of its biggest strengths and that also has improved with each season.
“I think we just come together more as a team each year,” said Webb. She added that Whitehead is good at introducing more aspects of the sport to the team each year to expand their knowledge of rugby.
This year, Whitehead and the rest of the team hope to build on last year’s successes and make it to the league final again. Whitehead added if they can progress to provincials as well, that would be an impressive goal.