Almost two weeks ago I came across this amazing campaign while I was scrolling along on Facebook. It was called #becauseofrugby. It was the women from the Notre Dame rugby team and it was AWESOME. It was an incredible post for women & ruggers world wide. When I did a little more digging, I learned that this all started with Emory Women's Rugby back in 2014. So before I even get to my rambling on & on I needed to make sure we pay homage to the ladies who inspired our team to follow in their footsteps. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Our girls thank you for the inspiration. I hope after seeing their own #becauseofrugby images you can say they've made you proud. To see all of the Plainfield Rugby Girls #becauseofrugby campaign photos please visit my Facebook business page CheriLynPhotography
This all started for me when my daughter Shelby came home from school her sophomore year and announced that she wanted to try out for rugby. I heard the words and I felt a little faint. Rugby? All I really knew was that it was a bad ass sport and it was played with no protection and O-M-G!? My child?! Rugby?! She is my brilliant academic kid. Sports have never held any interest to her. She loved working out & being healthy and spent her days and nights at the gym, but that is where it ended. Yet I let her play. I let her learn. She was right. I'm so thankful she brought rugby into our lives. Rugby players, coaches, and parents become family immediately. I remember Shelby's first game. Seasoned moms could pick me out of the crowd instantly. They knew I was a first time mom.. I don't know if it was the wide-eyed look or the fact that I was probably on the verge of tears the entire first couple minutes. Then the change happened. I was cheering, I was yelling.. some of it seemed like dirty words & I wasn't quite sure what a ruck, a try, or scrum my in meant but I was yelling with the rest of the faithful parents - This was AMAZING. These girls were tough. Why didn't I ever see this sport when I was her age? I think I could have channeled some aggressions much more productively at rugby then four wheeling and getting caught taking my truck through cornfields on a regular basis.
My daughter is part of a family. The Plainfield Rugby Club is made up of all four Plainfield high schools.. Central, East, North & South. We're a private club. It is a shame that these kids can't have rugby as a school sport. They work so hard and are so dedicated, yet they rarely get the recognition they deserve from their schools. If you don't know anything about it, yes it sounds a little scary at first. Over the years I have learned that there are far more injuries in other high school supported sports than there are in rugby. The first thing are coaches teach our girls is how to always protect themselves. Rugby is quickly gaining popularity in the U.S. Even though it's momentum is building, it's not as popular at the high school level and our girls have to travel all around Illinois to find other teams to play. We also travel to Wisconsin & Indiana on a regular basis. We play teams like Chillicothe, Palatine, Fox Valley, Chicago Taft, Divine Savior, Catholic Memorial and Rockford. There are all star teams and summer camps and everything in between. We'd love to see some of these other neighboring communities form their own rugby clubs. These kids should get to play without having to travel for hours & hours for a game. But we do. We love it, and still wish we had more teams to play against. So here is a shout out to you Downers Grove, Hinsdale,Darien,Bolingbrook, Wheaton, and every other Chicagoland suburb you can think of.. Form a rugby club! Become a part of this tight knit family. We need you to participate. We need you to help our sport grow at a junior & high school level. Not sure about us? Come to our games, talk to our parents and coaches. You will be moved by our girls.
These girls are champions. They are warriors. We have girls moving on this year to play for Notre Dame, girls who are going to be studying engineering at U of I.. we have ruggers going on to college to become nurses and doctors, my daughter is going to Loyola for biology & one day medicine. (Insert proud mama brag here) These girls are determined, focused, and they excel in everything they do. In all of my life I have never met a more diverse group of girls that share the same desire for success. This is a sport for girls of all shapes, sizes and walks of life. This is a sport for the cardio beasts, the track star, the academic girls, the tough girls, the fighters who learn to channel their aggression into something positive, and everyone in between. It's inclusive. We have girls who can run down the field like Hester, dance around opposing players like Payton, or take you down like a freight train. As rough as it looks, and as tough as they are, it's also beautiful. It's not just for boys. There's beauty in their fight, in their bruises, and in their strength. I don't say warrior princesses because they are girls. I just say warriors. They inspire me & move me.
Their chant before each game is my favorite: How do you make the grass grow?!!!Blood! Who's Blood?!! Who's blood?!!Their blood! It really fires them up, and you definitely can't accuse them of being dainty.
These girls don't even technically have their own field. Sometimes they practice in a park, sometimes they can share a field at Plainfield Central. They travel with everything, if need be. These girls share everything. Rugby socks, sport sandals, jersey's, and as disgusting as it sounds I've even caught them sharing a mouth guards. They don't have sponsors knocking at their doors and they don't have state of the art equipment to practice on. What they do have is spirit & determination.
This project involved getting the girls into my photography studio. Which is basically my front room with a background & studio lights :) I loved spending time with this team off the field. Although, photographing them on the field is my passion. I don't claim to be a sports photographer. I fell in love with photographing rugby for my daughter. I wanted her to have memories of this time in her life. Just like when they play their first game, I became hooked. I don't have all of the fancy sports lenses I see on the sidelines at our tournaments that the sports journalists use. I'm a Nikon girl when it comes to making portraits.Special thanks to Borrowlenses for the times I want to get creative and fancy at the tournaments. If it weren't for those guys, I'd never be able to try on those great lenses the same way more girls need to TRY ON RUGBY! When I shoot, I follow the ball, and I get some pretty incredible shots for being a rugby mom. The girls love it. I may never find myself on the sidelines of Soldier Field as a sports photographer, but photographing rugby gives me a personal satisfaction that I cannot put into words. It's my hobby & my passion. I hope to continue photographing this sport, played by amazing girls long after my daughter graduates high school.
When the girls & I all saw this #becauseofrugby campaign they all immediately started throwing ideas around and I just knew we had to follow in the footsteps of Notre Dame & Emory. Along the way, some of the moms felt they could add some fun to the mix so we have a few #becauseofrugby mom - isms to share with you.
From the moms:
Because of rugby, I can feed 60 rugby players for $20. Because of rugby, I know that bruises on my daughter can be beautiful. Because of rugby, I know that my daughter is more fierce than I ever imagined she could be.
Because of rugby, I know that tampons can also be used for nosebleeds.
Because of rugby, I learned that rugby words AREN'T dirty even though they sound that way.
Thank you to our amazing coach Milo, who spends so much of his free time coaching and protecting our girls. Milo, we support you as a coach, and as a police officer. Much love for our men & women in blue. Because of you, these girls have memories for a lifetime. Memories to pass down for generations to come. Hopefully passing the rugby torch along the way. Thank you to Mama Milo for supporting us & sharing him with our kiddos during rugby season. You're one hell of a lady. Jess! Keleigh! Thank you for being so tough on the girls, the ones who don't back down and tell them like it is. I love that about you two.
Coach Mike, thank you for coaching the parents and teaching us how to understand rugby during each & every game. We'd be lost without you. Thank you for the love & respect & time you give our girls. You bust your ass in the construction field and dedicate your free time to these girls as well. For that, we thank you.
Coach Dave - You coach Morrigans Rugby & you still come out to help our team. I love to hear you fired up on the sidelines during our games!
Thank you Morrigans for stepping in and giving our girls medals for the year they were forgotten.The girls won a championship and watched the boys teams have a mini-ceremony and win medals, while the girls didn't even get a mention.Keeping their chins up,they all said what really mattered was the win. This team fought hard and won their tournament and the ladies of Morrigans rugby weren't going to let them go unrewarded. They came to our post season picnic and presented each girl with medals for their accomplishments.I'll never forget that. Thank you.
Maureen Flynn, owner and designer at House of Flynn had told me over a brief social media encounter that she would love to see our girls learn the haka. At the end of our season, we're hoping to have a haka dance prepared for you. I wanted to share our #becauseofrugby campaign with you as well because I know you are also such a fan of the sport.For the readers that don't know what the haka is, I suggest you search it out on You Tube. It will give you the chills!
Our girls are obsessed with The All-Blacks, Irish, and Eagles Rugby. The All-Blacks are coming back to Soldier Field this Fall. We are blessed to live a stones throw away.
Rugby Illinois & USA Rugby for being here for our girls, parents and coaches. We wouldn't be able to have this family if it weren't for you.
I don't know if this is a blog post as much as it is a thank-you note to our rugby family. As you can see, our rugby families reach far & wide. We aren't just talking about our team. The reach of rugby is global. All we wish for this campaign is that these pictures help inspire another team or a former player to pick up a ball and start coaching at the high school level so more kids can play. #thegirlscanplay They just need someone to lead them :)
Enjoy their portraits & what rugby has taught these brilliant young ladies.
P.S. I had so much fun photographing these girls, I'd love a chance to do something like this again. Rugby teams.. connect with me :)