With only 3 women’s rugby teams in New York high schools, the organization is trying to level the playing field | Our America: Fifty 50

NEW YORK – Allisa Reach, a young woman from Queens, is trying to level the playing field for the sport of rugby. It’s an emerging NCAA sport, but few women play it.

“Women should be more empowered. They should feel they have the strength to be able to play any sport,” Reach said. “Just because we like to play in dirt and mud doesn’t mean we’re not feminine. I think the image of what a woman is needs to be redefined.”

Reach started playing rugby in seventh grade. She said not many people knew about the sport and she wanted to be different.

“The lack of representation in sports doesn’t affect me too much. It just means I have to work harder,” she said.

When the Reach rugby team folded due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they joined the only other girls’ club rugby team in New York, Play Rugby USA, and set their sights on to inspire more women to fall in love with sports.

“Play Rugby USA is a sports-focused youth development organization located here in New York,” said Danielle Hundt, Chief Operating Officer of Play Rugby USA. “Out of 3,200 high school sports teams in New York, there are three women’s rugby teams right now. It’s really crazy.”

Play Rugby USA coach Ashley Allen said that to attract more New York girls to rugby, the sport needs more female coaches who represent the diverse backgrounds of potential players.

Hundt added that society needs to normalize girls who play contact sports.

“It’s very easy to convince a school to have a boys’ rugby team. It’s exponentially more difficult to convince a school to have a girls’ rugby program,” Hundt said.

She believes it is important to recognize how far women have come in sport over the past 50 years. She said many of the opportunities she had were only available because of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the landmark Civil Rights Act widely known for its progress toward gender equality. for women and girls who play sports.

“I’ve been able to choose the activities I want to participate in. I’m a woman who’s the COO of a nonprofit that I’m passionate about,” Hundt said. “I know we have a long way to go, but having that protection and knowing that a school, a club [or] the organization can’t take that away from us just because we’re women – it’s really important to recognize that.”

SEE ALSO: What is Title IX?

Hundt’s goal is to ensure that all of his rugby players find and succeed after high school.

“For Allisa in particular, she worked very, very hard and she got a scholarship to play Division I rugby at Quinnipiac University,” Hundt said.

“My inspiration to play rugby and my motivation are closely tied to my family, as they sacrificed a lot coming to America as immigrants. [from Cambodia]. Every time I step onto the pitch I feel proud because I feel like I’m not just representing my family and my club team, I’m representing myself. I’m showing what I can do and what I’ve worked for as a player, student-athlete and girl,” Reach said.

Watch Sofia Carson host “Our America: Fifty50,” a special on ABC-owned TV stations commemorating the 50th anniversary of Title IX, on your local ABC station (click here for local listings) or wherever you stream: Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku.

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