Senior Column: A senior reflects on time learning rugby, and how it is more than just a sport

Through my four years of college here at the UI, rugby came for me at the time I needed it most.



Naomi Hofferber, Arts Reporter

Junior year, I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Seasonal depression had hit me hard, and I felt like I had hit a plateau — in my work with The Daily Iowan that I loved so much, in school, even in my personal life. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was looking for an outlet for my anxiety, something to give me a solid sense of purpose — to get a win where I couldn’t seem to get one.

By fate, that October I ended up at a Halloween party for the UI Women’s Rugby Team. One of the girls, Rachel, suggested I join the team. Skye, my soon-to-be best friend, agreed. I went to my first practice, driving to the HTRC at 5:30 in the morning, wondering what the hell I was doing.

When I first joined rugby, I was fairly awful. I had never played, or even seen it played, and had no clue how one was supposed to throw that watermelon of a ball. I was not a runner, which was unfortunate for me as we had just entered 7’s style rugby season, where sprinting is key to success. Workouts were brutal, and I was one of but a small handful of new people on the team.

But I wouldn’t give up. When I felt like crying, felt like I didn’t belong, someone would come and run next to me, encouraging me. When I made a mistake, someone would show me the right way to do it, believing that I could do it, I could get this right.

Rugby put a lot of things in perspective for me. For one, it made me realize how I thought about my body, and my mind.

Mentally, rugby got me out of bed in the morning. I was learning something I had no background in, and therefore had to rethink how I thought about failure, and what it actually meant. I had to grow patience for myself, and make space for myself to make mistakes, something I am notoriously bad at.

Physically, as a kid frequently picked last for sports because of my stocky body, it was a wild change of pace to suddenly be valued as a forward. Girls who looked like me had a place on the field, had a position. My body could be a strong, powerful ally, rather than an enemy in the mirror. I got stronger, and a little faster, and felt more confident about what my body could do.

Importantly, rugby taught me a lot about asking for help. As someone who instinctively wants to do things alone, without any help, it’s not a natural instinct to ask for help with anything. You can’t play rugby alone. You also can’t go through life alone. On the field, we call out “With You” when we’re near someone. “With You” means that someone has your back, whether you pass the ball out, score the try, or end up going down with the ball.

Throughout my time in college, I had so many people with me, who got me through the bad times, who celebrated with me during the good times, and pushed me to be better, and to keep growing and changing. I didn’t always ask for help when I should have, but I’m forever thankful for the people who had my back, who were with me.

The first match of this Spring season, I scored my very first try in a game. I felt so proud of what I’d learned, how I went from a terrified player on the pitch with no tools in her pocket to someone who could go for it, who could make it to the try zone.

I’ve finally made it to the try zone of my college career, to be horribly cheesy. I learned the skills, I practiced what I learned over and over, I took some really hard hits, and did a lot that I’m proud of.

I won’t get to walk across that graduation stage, do the parties, the bar crawls, the pomp and the circumstance. But I played the game the best I could, I left it all on the field, and I’m proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished.

Congrats, Class of 2020. I’m buying us all a drink after this. “With You.”

And thank you Mom, Dad, Sydney, Isaac, Skye, Saige, and Kit. I couldn’t have done this without you guys.