Rugby, a unique team sport suitable for gals as well as guys

by Karen Sangillo

There are a lot of choices for young girls hoping to participate in a sport. One that many probably haven’t considered is rugby. But according to local coach Shane Flynn, it’s a sport that has a lot to recommend it. 

“It’s a unique team sport that females can play as well as males,” said Shane, who coaches at the Doylestown Rugby Club. “It’s a physical sport which is traditionally looked on as maybe too physical for girls, but we’re starting to see that we want to empower young females and encourage the strength that they have in their bodies. It’s not shameful to be strong and physical.”

There are girls who are good athletes who feel they can’t play a sport in middle or high school, especially in this area, because the population is so dense. Many girls go out for school sports, but not all are chosen, leaving others with no physical outlet. 

“Rugby is a great sport for those girls who want to play a sport but didn’t make their school sport or who don’t get to play that much because there are so many other girls in front of them,” Shane said. 

There is no specific type of athlete for rugby. 

“If you’re big or small, fast or slower, there’s a position on the field for you,” Shane said. “There really is something for everyone.”

In addition to Doylestown Rugby Club, Shane is involved with the Yardley Makefield Rookie Rugby Club, geared toward younger, newer players. There are also a lot of opportunities for growth in rugby. Due to Title IX, many colleges are starting to recognize women’s rugby as a varsity sport. Locally, Princeton recently elevated its women’s rugby club to varsity status and West Chester’s program has been a varsity team for several years.

“There has really been an increase in college programs, especially at smaller schools that are trying to make a name for themselves,” Shane said. “They see the opportunities that a growing sport offers for them to create winning programs right away.”

Several players from Doylestown Rugby Club are participating in college rugby. 

“This year we had one girl who will play at West Chester and another at Mount St. Mary,” Shane said. “About 80% go on to play college, either for a club or a varsity team.”

One reason the sport may be spreading so rapidly is that it has once again become an Olympic sport. Rugby with 15 players appeared for the first time at the Paris Olympics in 1900 and was also contested in 1908, 1920 and 1924. It was reintroduced with seven players at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.  

The United States qualified in both men’s and women’s in both the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, but did not medal. Additionally, the US was awarded the World Cup for both genders of rugby in 2031 and 2033. Shane is optimistic that exposure will help grow the sport. 

“I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone to see rugby,” he said. “We’re expecting a large influx of promotions for the World Cup and hopefully that will help.” 

In addition to coaching and playing rugby, Shane is also the parent of a rugby player. Daughter Nolah, age 14, has been involved with the sport since she was five-years-old. Entering her freshman year at Pennsbury, she is planning on trying out for the volleyball team there. 

“She also plays basketball and did middle school track,” he said. “She was a longtime travel softball player but gave that up because it conflicted too much with rugby and rugby won out. “She really enjoys rugby and we’ll see if she continues to be a multi-sport athlete. If she wants to play rugby in college that’s fine. I think she enjoys the team aspect and making friends and that’s a great way to make friends in college.”  

For more information on Doylestown Rugby Club, visit For more information on Yardley Makefield Rookie Rugby Club, visit

PHOTO CAP: The Doylestown Rugby Club

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