STU women’s rugby celebrate physicality in sport

Jessica Carver and Ady King posing with their sign to create awareness of the stereotypes of women in sports. (Submitted: Tanya Grealey)

It is the unfortunate truth that many women in sport face comments from men about being ‘too aggressive’ or ‘too masculine’ specifically in contact sports such as rugby or hockey.

This month, the St. Thomas University women’s rugby team shared a post highlighting some of these comments that women are subjected to that their male counterparts are not.

Sarah Hetherington, fourth-year student and fullback, said rugby head coach Rebecca Baker suggested the empowerment photoshoot to help the team come together and talk about what it means to be a woman in sport.

Rigel Testas posing with her sign to create awareness that the stereotypes for women in sport are not limited to Canadian players, but to other nationalities too. (Submitted: Tanya Grealey)

Hetherington has received comments from non-rugby players about being smaller in stature and yet playing such a physical sport. She believes playing the sport gives a personal sense of strength and power.

“We’re a smaller size person, but we can still hit everyone else on the field the same as
everybody else can,” she said. “That feeling of knowing you’re able to do that is incredible.”

Hetherington views the diversity of body types as another special part of playing women’s

“All body types play and can excel in rugby, and I think that’s what draws a lot of people
to it,” she said. “Rugby is known for having such tight knit communities because everyone’s
accepted and every body type is celebrated in that sport.”

Kyleigh King, a third-year student and centre on the rugby team, also views herself as one of the smaller players on the team, which means others are often surprised she plays the sport.

“At first when I was playing, it was hard to hear,” she said.

The rugby community, and the support she receives from her team, has helped to block out comments like this.

“Once you are in the rugby community and you realize strength and aggression are celebrated when you’re with your team and with your coaches, outside forces don’t even matter,” King said.

Natalie Mackay, a second-year on the women’s hockey team, believes that even though hitting is not legal in the women’s game, physicality still plays a big role.

“The notion that women can’t handle the physicality of hitting is not true. There’s still
physicality, battling and body contact,” she said.

“There’s just a stronger balance between physicality and skill and the women’s game.”