You might never have heard of Monroe College before. It’s an urban school based in New Rochelle and the Bronx of New York. With the Men’s team just forming last year, this is the inaugural season for the Monroe College Women’s Rugby Club. They have entered into the Tri State Rugby Conference Central Division. Coach James English, who has coached and played all over the U.K., Ireland, and the USA; along with Coach Phaidra Knight, a USA Rugby “Player of the Decade” honoree, coach the team. English commented that, “the majority of our players are local and come from the five boroughs of New York.”
Even as a brand new program, they have full support and funding from the college. “Monroe saw the value in rugby as a method of attracting and retaining good students, we now have 80 rugby players men and women. We are provided with uniforms and equipment, Varsity strength and conditioning, athletic trainers and all transport is funded so we can really focus on rugby and the students education. Our program is built on an Academy model so players have their classes scheduled in the afternoons and we do rugby every morning.”
Taking rugby and academics to another level, English said, “we hold our student athletes to a high standard and know that for many of them the structure and discipline will help them through the journey.”
While Monroe College Ruby is still young, they have a surplus of coaching knowledge. English continued, “I have two great coaches working with me, Old Blue’s Dylan Fawsitt and USA Rugby’s Phaidra Knight, and we are in a position to mould these young rugby players however we see fit. No bad habits, open minds, lots of talent and energy. It’s a fantastic challenge.”
Last week the Monroe College Women had their first match ever against Fordham winning 14-5. With many players only having 3-weeks of rugby experience and it being the first time the women played together, they pulled out a convincing win. English recounted, “we were able to use defense as a method of regaining possession quickly and had the ability to look up and simply move the ball to space.”
“As coaches and players we are having a lot of fun exploring the game and seeing what works and what doesn’t. We are all learning! Enjoyment is at the heart of our program and we are encouraging these young women to express themselves as athletes… We play a lot of games, finding space, keeping the ball alive. Finding their transferable skills as athletes and encouraging them to use them.”
Brenda Doctor is the captain of the squad and a product of Play Rugby USA, a group based in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco that helps youths from mostly underserved communities learn and develop the skills and philosophy of rugby. English highlighted Doctor’s leadership on the pitch and stated, “we have a lot of talent and I’m excited to see where the players can take it. The players are having fun and learning all the time, we are taking each game as it comes this year. It’s not just about winning for us at this point, we want to grow, develop and create a program we can all be proud of.”
Monroe College Women’s Rugby will face Drew University this Saturday, September 23 at Drew University in Madison, NJ.