Sunday, May 12, 2013

10 Lessons From My First Rugby Saturday!

So, I recently started a team sport. Me. The woman who hasn't done anything remotely athletic in twenty years. Heck! Twenty-five years. What I did in high school P.E. was hardly athletic. Me. The woman who will be 40 years old in a couple of months. Me. The lazy girl who would rather watch TV and read a book than do just about anything. Me.

What team sport? Not just any old sport. Not a sport where I get even a moment to stop running and rest. Nope. A sport with continuous movement. Soccer? Nope. Too gentle. I chose RUGBY! That's right. A sport so tough it makes football players look like wimps. I grew up playing backyard tackle football with the guys in my family, and even they think I am crazy to take on such a hardcore sport. But the fact is that the sport is super cool. It's fun. And it's an awesome way to meet some pretty rad people.

Well, this weekend I played in my very first game. A month ago I didn't know the rules (still iffy on most of them...OH, and they're LAWS, not rules), had never watched a match, and had no idea what the game is about. Even now, I've only been to four practices. But yesterday morning I rode with a couple of teammates to Memphis, Tennessee to play in my very first match. It was a long, fun, hard, exhausting, discouraging and encouraging day.

Here are 10 lessons I learned from my very first Rugby Saturday!

1.)  Eat breakfast before you go. Once you get to the pitch (that's what the field is called), you may not get a chance to fuel up for a long time. You need the fuel. Otherwise, you won't do your best, and you'll be miserable. And if you are like me and suffer from blood sugar issues, it can be dangerous. I didn't have time to eat breakfast. Thank God I brought a package of peanut butter crackers or I could have been in trouble. When I skip breakfast or go long periods without food, I have a tendency to get sick, and sometimes my vision goes black. It happens to me often, so I have to be careful. The peanut butter crackers kept me from losing my vision, but I did feel weak and heavy. It's not fun to be physical when you are not feeling strong.

2.)  Bring a jacket!!! I don't care if it's July. It gets nippy no matter what time of year it is. I mean, it's MAY for crying out loud, and the whole day yesterday was chilly and windy. I shivered all day long. And I should have brought sweat pants, too. A rainstorm had blown through the night before, so the entire pitch was a mud puddle. It was a cool and breezy day, and we were all soaked within minutes. I didn't want to put my jeans on over my rugby shorts b/c I wanted my jeans dry for the ride home. Would have loved a pair of loose and warm sweat pants.

3.) While you're at it, you might want to bring a few other things. Like camp chairs and blankets. It's not fun to sit on a muddy ground. Bring hand sanitizer!! Seriously. Port-a-potties. Enough said. And for Pete's sake, bring some sunscreen! I am burnt, and it will be a laughable farmer's tan in a day or two. Bring food... you can't go wrong with snacks, and drinks and ice. There were a couple of food trucks there, but I wish I had just brought food.

4.) Be prepared to HURT!! That's right... to hurt and get hurt! Everyone hits the dirt. Not one person will stay on their feet through the match. You will get banged up. You will bang others up (if you are actually playing the game). So, be prepared. This kind of goes with the above post. What to bring. Bring ibuprofen and Exedrin. When someone's skull rocks off the ground, they will need some relief. The team will have a first aid least I am sure there was one. I never asked. But bring the meds in case. And even some sandwich bags might be of can use the ice from your cooler to make an ice pack if someone jacks up an ankle or something. You know, some Deep Heat might be a good idea, too.

5.) People get freaking intense!! Language gets salty out there. People get angry and irritated. There are times when you think some folk are going to throw down. Might want to keep the kiddos (if they come out) back a bit, so they won't hear some of the more colorful outbursts. Hair gets pulled. People get shoved. It happens.

6.)  You can't hit a truck head on. I was anxious to make tackles. I wanted to do well at the game. And down the pitch she charged. A 300 lb girl with a crew cut and a fire in her blue eyes. And, man, did she clean my clock!!! I hit her full on. I think she knocked me back about 5 feet. My coach said she bounced as far as I did, but I don't believe it. But I learned a lesson. Stay low, and try to hit from the side...and wrap. Hug her; bind her; and take her down. Man! My head still hurts a bit. As does my neck, actually. My head hurt pretty awful the rest of the game. Until, they ended up taking me out for my own safety. Had a few vision issues after that. No idea if it was the getting ran over by a truck or the lack of food and low blood sugar, but when your vision is like looking through cracked glass, they won't let you play anymore. I didn't play in the next game at all. Rugby is a contact sport. And you will get bruised and beat up. But it's dangerous and stupid to take unnecessary risks. There are safer ways to tackle and ruck and maul. Use good form and you lessen your chances of getting injured.

7.)  Pretty girls can be monsters, too!!! We have a young woman on our team who looks like she belongs in an issue of Seventeen and/or a Jillian Michaels workout video. She's not only gorgeous, but she's in superior physical shape. She's a quiet girl. Soft-spoken. And the child is ferocious!! Seriously, she's a monster on the pitch. The girl can run like lightening, take out the opponent, roll away and leap to her feet and do it all over again! She can be covered from head to foot in mud, take a boot to the head, get hit so hard she has to wrap her ribs, and STILL play with excellence in two matches. I kept reminding myself that she is far younger than I am and in much better shape, because I feel like a total wuss around her. And also, just because someone is small doesn't mean they can't rock your world. We have another lady on our team who is not big in stature or girth, but the woman is invincible and unstoppable! You have no idea the mettle it takes to play rugby. Not just SAY you play...but to actually get out there and give everything you've got. These two chicks are amazing! And they aren't the only ones. We have a great team.

8.)  Fitness is Key!!!! I am extremely embarrassed and appalled at the awful shape I am in. I can't run for more than a few seconds without wheezing and hurting. I'm slow. I have no endurance. And this sport is the MOST physical thing I have ever done. It takes endurance and strength. I have a lot of work to do to ever feel like I belong on that pitch. I am determined not to give up. Eventually, I'll be what I need to be. But for anyone thinking of doing this...get serious about your health. The sport is a fun way to get in shape and be active, but you NEED to workout between practices and eat clean, or you will never be able to give what you need to be a force on the pitch. And being strong and fast and having great endurance will also lessen your chances of getting hurt.  Weakness is dangerous.

9.)  Know that you WILL get semi-naked in front of a LOT of people.  This is yet another area where fitness is key. Look, ruggers come in all shapes and sizes. But for me personally, if you are going to see me in nothing but compression shorts and a sports bra, I don't want to look as out of shape as I feel. Just saying. Anyway, I don't think a rugger has the option of being self-conscious or shy. This weekend's matches were played on a pitch that was wet and muddy, and there was no where to change. I wore compression shorts and a sports bra under my regular clothes (as did everyone else), so we had to put on our rugby shorts and jersey's there. And there are times when you come out of the game and have to take your jersey off and give it to another rugger. Yesterday was motivation to work on my abs.

10.)  Social skills are a good thing to have. I don't really have them. After a day of beating the soup out of each other, ruggers like to meet up and have a bit of a party. There's food. And beer. If you are like me and don't drink, you better bring a water or something. People are really nice. Two different people (actual strangers and not my team mates...that's a whole different realm of social awkwardness. I can't make decent conversation with them either) tried to talk to me. Just being nice and making conversation. But I think going into some monologue about science studies I've seen in documentaries might actually be boring. Yeah...I need to work on my skills of talking to other people. For someone who talks a lot, I really suck at it.

Bonus: If a drunk dude (or mentally ill...I'm not sure which) just walks up to you on the sidewalks of Memphis and leans in for you to kiss him on the cheek, just do it! Seriously, this happened to me. A guy walked right up to me, smiled and leaned in close for a kiss. On his cheek...otherwise I would have been much more freaked out than I was. I was shocked, and I gave him one of those "Yo, bro" kind of hugs. You know, where you lean in and give a hug where your body never touches and you just pat them on the back three times. I totally did that. But, really, I should have just kissed him. Why not? What the heck!

So, I got my first Rugby Saturday under my belt. It didn't scare me off...Nope. Well, kinda scared, but I'm pressing on anyway.

Remember always, SATURDAY'S A RUGBY DAY!

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