Student athletes unite to keep rugby team afloat



Fifteen players start on the field in a game of rugby.

However, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania women’s club rugby team functions as a family.

That includes dealing with an unpredictable budget.

Being a club team means it doesn’t receive the same benefits as official IUP sports like soccer or softball.

Depending on its budget, set by the IUP Student Cooperative Association, the rugby team, which identifies as the Scooters, may receive around $1,700 per semester for traveling, equipment, etc.

But that could always be more or less depending on the budget set by the Co-op.

The players pay about $70 per semester out of pocket as well as a yearly $45 fee to USA Rugby for insurance.

However, if they make nationals, they could be paying much more depending on where the games are located.

“It’s a club sport,” captain Jenna Schmitt (senior, psychology) said, “so we do everything from taking care of money, to teaching, to planning the drills, transportation and equipment. It’s really up to the team to fundraise and help with costs.”

When factoring travel costs and equipment, the team usually has around 40 women.

“One of the phrases we always say is ‘15 as one,’” Schmitt said.

“That just shows that we do everything for the same purpose and together like a family.”

During the spring semester, the tournaments can be anywhere in the region.

Last weekend the women’s team traveled two hours to West Virginia University to play.

Schmitt also said the team is in the process of getting new jerseys.

“That’s why we have been trying to fundraise more,” she said. “Jerseys are really expensive.”

For fundraising, the rugby team makes T-shirts for Homecoming and sells Blue Mountain Candles.

Playing for the team is year-round. The fall season starts in the Allegheny Rugby Union, and it lasts around six or seven weeks.

The spring semester consists of tournaments, playoffs and nationals.

Saturday, the team played at Penn State University for nationals and made it to the Sweet 16 before its season ended.

In 2013, the team traveled to California for the national tournament.

“We always have high expectations,” Schmitt said.

“But we aren’t really focused on trying to get to nationals. It’s just trying to do the best that we can and have fun with it. Just because our team is very young.”

Even with the success of the team, most of the women have never played rugby before.

The team is split into an A-side and B-side. The B-side is for teaching the new players the game of rugby and plays at a slower pace, and the women’s team is constantly looking for new players – even women without prior rugby experience.

There are no tryouts for making the team.

“It’s overwhelming at first trying to learn a new sport, but it’s really fun,” co-captain Elizabeth Hall (junior, nursing) said. “I came here not knowing anyone.The team has been my family. Throughout college, I’ve grown with them.”

IUP students can support the team when it plays Saturday at 9 a.m. against Slippery Rock University at Frank Cignetti Field at George P. Miller Stadium.

Any students interested in playing can contact Schmitt at 814-449-7763 or email