Monday, December 30, 2013

A Little More Background AND Introducing Jamie VanDerKrake

As the Stars 7s team has formed over the past 4 weeks one of our operating principles is that we want to give players from smaller universities - the players that aren't at a Penn State, Stanford or Norwich, those not playing in USA Rugby nationals each year - a chance to develop alongside more experienced women's club/international players. It still remains the case with rugby in the USA that most collegiate women happen to find a program at the university they choose to attend for academic reasons (or for other sports initially; crossover athletes make up a good chunk of rugby rosters).

The distinction between Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 colleges can often seem random - depending on geography, coaching, school funding, alumnae interaction and more. The strength of programs varies greatly and can dramatically swing year to year pending graduation (rugby has a very different recruiting pathway again depending on the university and the organization of a club's board), coaching, fundraising - you get the general idea. There are more varsity rugby programs than ever before with universities such as Quinnipiac, Davenport (Michigan), American International College, Eastern Illinois University, Life University (Georgia), and the special cases of the Ivy League colleges and military academies, but these opportunities are still few as compared to rugby in Canada which is supported by their collegiate athletic governing bodies (the Canadian NCAA if you will).

Thus one of the Stars main missions is to give these athletes from smaller schools, from the unheralded programs that may struggle for coaches, for numbers, for funding, a chance to both learn and to be seen - the opportunities that those of us at more established programs have had. If we can bridge these gaps, give players from "rugby deserts" a change to experience higher levels of the game and to inspire them to continue their rugby careers and pursue additional playing opportunities, then those of us "old girls" have done our job. Rugby is about giving back and as the Stars family grows we'd love to one day establish a scholarship fund to assist our U-23s in attending elite camps to further develop their game. As a part of each tour we'll be pairing up "Shooting Stars" buddies where the younger players have a "big sister" type mentor for the trip. Plus exchanging a jersey and giving pre-game gifts is just plain fun!

So with that in mind, here's the first of our lovely ruggers from Florida - Jamie VanDerKrake! Florida lacks the wealth of rugby opportunities you may find in the Midwest or Northeast. Geography plays a large role in the limitations on the clubs down south, as does the access to coaches/senior clubs other regions enjoy. The Stars are proud to have 6 players from Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University on our teams - and women from Fort Miami that had to pass on this tour but will be traveling on future tours - and we can't wait to see what happens!

In Jamie's words:

I'm a Sophomore criminal justice/criminology major at Florida Atlantic University. I've always played sports and I couldn't picture my life without athletics. Although, I've only been playing rugby for a year, the love I have for it feels like it goes far beyond that. 

I joined my FAU Team a year ago, one of the best decisions I've made. I had no idea what rugby was until I stepped out on the pitch, sometimes I feel like I still don't know! There's always something new, that damn scrum cadence always changing, which makes me love it that much more. It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, your past, you become part of the rugby family when you step proudly out on the pitch.  

This tournament helps me prove my dedication to myself and rugby. I want to progress and continue to grow better as a player. I see this amazing opportunity as a chance to do so.


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