Rugby is a unique, competitive, and truly magnificent sport in all aspects. It is a bond between players that creates a culture and teaches one how to be humble, yet tough while playing the game and in life.
It encompasses tactics used in both soccer and American football, making it even more exciting. Rugby is one of fastest growing sports in America with high schools, colleges, and clubs developing further and learning more about it every day.
With the exponential growth nationwide the sport is also becoming very competitive, with tournaments and leagues increasing annually. The two most know forms of the sport are seven-a-side and 15-a-side.
Sevens is mostly about speed and endurance and even the though the game is only seven-minute halves, it feels like an eternity. Fifteen-a-side relies more on strength, technique and tactics in order to win the game. A 15s game is 40-minute halves, therefore each team has enough time to battle it out for supremacy on the field.
Bailey Johnson has been an exemplary individual in the rugby scenario, proving that through hard work and self-belief anything is achievable.
“I played various sports in high school, and some friends also played rugby,” Johnson said. “I remember it was my freshman year in high school that I first ever attended a practice, and then made a full commitment in my sophomore year to the sport.”
Johnson loved the camaraderie aspect of the game.
“Wayzata Girls Rugby made me feel welcomed and we became a close-knit team, I joined because I was curious but stayed because of the camaraderie,” Johnson said.
Johnson began playing rugby in 2009 and since she had just finished her years playing volleyball and wanted to stay active, rugby seemed liked the right fit.
Little did she know that so many doors were about to open. Johnson is currently a senior with a degree in mass media and a minor in communication studies she will be graduating at the end of the spring semester. She has played for the Mankato Women’s Rugby Club for about two years.
“I think just being a part of the Mankato Women’s Rugby Club has taught me to stay humble but stay dedicated as well. I wouldn’t trade my experiences with Mankato Women’s Rugby for anything,” Johnson said.
Johnson has captained the Minnesota U23 Women’s Select side team for the past two years and says that it has been a tremendous experience in leadership that she has gained. Johnson also played for the Collegiate All Americans in 2013 that toured France, then again in 2014 touring Canada and finally for the Midwest Thunderbirds in 2015 touring Wales. She hopes to make the squad for the World Cup in 2017 to Ireland, and a few other tours with the Midwest Thunderbirds in the future.
“I am currently in the World Cup 15s Player Pool. So I consider myself a 15s player above sevens. Both are very different games however. I am starting to try 7s more competitively and have really enjoyed how much it has taught me about playing a fast-paced, and wide game, which will help translate into my 15s game. Fifteen-a-side is a great game of strength, power, work and resilience. Being able to push yourself for 80 minutes might sound like a daunting task, but I absolutely love every minute I can have on the field,” Johnson said.
Johnson plays for the Minnesota Valkyries and looks up to two different people.
“I have a few people that I call my role models to this sport. I play for the Minnesota Valkyries now, so two people I really look to are Libby Berg, and Hamm. These two women have been influential in my drive to become a better player mentally and physically and have reached goals that I hope to reach someday,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s motivation to play the contact sport comes from within and she feels that with rugby she has found something that really manages to push herself to succeed on all levels.
“My motivation to play is to better myself, not just as a player, but as a human being. I want to be able to have an effect people on and off the field, and rugby really helps me cultivate who I am and where I want to go in life,” Johnson said.
Johnson believes that anybody willing to play contact sports should be able too.
“I think there is a great benefit to having women in rugby. This sport has taught me so much about myself and the world around me. Moments in a game can translate to real life so quickly, that’s why I have an incomparable love for this sport. I think people should start breaking down those barriers, contact sports are for anyone willing and able,” Johnson said.
Most people feel that rugby is a contact sport and it is awkward to see women playing it, as women are considered more or less as kind, careful and loving creatures. When individuals find themselves around rugby players they feel intimidated to some extent due to their size and physiques.
“I think being an athlete is a great thing, but the last thing I hope to do is intimidate people. I have rolled up to practice and people comment on my height, because I am so tall, but I definitely separate my social and school life from my rugby life and try not to intimidate anyone intentionally. My rugby face might be intimidating, but I am a great person outside of the pitch. People who know me know that I am tough on the outside and soft on the inside,” Johnson said.
Johnson has worked hard to get where she is today and she remains humble and is always ready to learn new things. Being an athlete can also have its setbacks as one injury can take away all you worked for, Johnson hope this does not occur as she pursues her dreams and fulfills her goals.
Her dedication and various sacrifices she has made to excel in the sport are truly phenomenal. Johnson encourages girls, ladies and women to try out the sport and to start their children at a young age. She says that the sport can mold you into a respectful, resilient human being. It is without a doubt sport unlike any other in its class. Johnson says that what she has learn over the years and is truly spot on in accordance with rugby is that; talent will get you through the door, but character is what keeps you in the room.