Caitlin Hensley is in the midst of a phenomenal comeback season for the Kennesaw State women’s rugby program. After taking the fall season off for personal reasons, Hensley has found time to return to the pitch and is making an immediate impact for the lady owls.
Hensley has battled with injuries her whole life but she never let this stop her from playing the sports she enjoyed. While in high school, she was involved with soccer and track and gave up both heading into college. It was not until she transferred into Kennesaw State that she started playing rugby. Hensley explained, “When I came to Kennesaw I met our former Club President, Casey Payne. We were at a party, and, quite frankly, when she told me she played rugby I found it hard to believe. She was petite, blonde hair, blue eyed sorority girl, and it caught me completely off guard when she stated the sport she played. In all honesty, I walked out on the rugby pitch for the first practice thinking, if she can do it, so can I.”
From there, Hensley began to flourish in the sport. The family atmosphere of rugby is what Hensley enjoys most about the sport. In fact, the relationship she has with her team is apart of her most found memory of rugby. “My favorite rugby moment would have to be my very first semester playing and we were in our first match against a team from Tennessee at the annual Battleship Tournament in Mobile, AL. I was pushed down and punched in some way, and before I even had the chance to stand up to defend myself to whatever had just happened, my teammates were already protecting me. One was pulling me away from the soon to be brawl, while another 3 or 4 were occupied with the other team in my defense,” said Hensley.
She continued, “This really meant something to me. How in the world…WHY in the world are these girls who I had ‘known’ for barely 2 months defending me to the extent where they too could get involved in a potential fight? It was the immediate “you are one of us” and “15 as 1” mentality of this sport that drew me in like quicksand. And, now, I can’t imagine my life without those girls or the sport of rugby.”
For the fall 2014 season, Hensley took the season off for personal reasons. “This past Fall, 2014, I hit a rough patch with personal issues off the field. Between working multiple jobs, being a full time student, being president and playing rugby, I finally realized that something had to give. I had to be an adult and not only step down from my officer role, but had to step away from the pitch altogether to focus on myself. I will never forget the feeling of failure as I told my team, both returning players who I had played with since I began in 2011, and players who had just been recruited, that I had made the decision to step away from the sport,” explained Hensley.
It took some convincing but this past spring, in a game against Spring Hill, she made her comeback and was reminded why she started playing the game again. She explains, “I had been convinced to help out with their first Matrix game versus Spring Hill. Still set in my mind that I was moving on from KSU Rugby, I didn’t plan on continuing to play the rest of the season. However, once I step foot on that pitch, and made the tackles, rucks, runs and picks, I realized why it was so hard for me to leave in the first place. I felt in an odd way, a sense of peace and comfort being on that field during the game. I felt back at home.”
Hensley also believes women’s rugby in the U.S. has a ton of potential to grow. She believes the sport brings empowerment to women and is a major confidence booster for young women everywhere. “Being exposed to strong (both mentally and physically), athletic, confident women playing one of the roughest, more physically demanding sports can benefit young girls in more ways than not. But, that’s where the growth must start. The individuals in the rugby community must share their knowledge of the sport, branching out to different regions to play exhibition games, friendlies as well as matrix games,” said Hensley.
Kennesaw State is off this weekend but be sure to check them out on February 14th as Emory travels to Kennesaw State!