Sitting at Sonic, covered in mud and laughing, Sara Jamieson orders her food then opens the back of her car. Six other girls climb in so they’re all out of the cold.
This is a common hangout for the Kingwood Girl’s rugby team, of which Jamieson is the captain.
“Our team is made up of 11 beautiful, amazing women,” Jamieson said. “I was quite literally dragged into it my freshman year and I fell in love with it.”
Standing at 4 feet, 11 inches, the senior at Kingwood High School doesn’t fit the stereotype of a rugby player, and that’s the beauty of the sport.
“Any person can play,” Jamieson said. “Absolutely any size, shape, age, height. There’s no set profile for a rugby player. People hear the word rugby and assume, ‘Oh, I have to be strong and big,’ which is completely wrong.”
Rugby is a predecessor to football, a tough mixture of football and soccer, but still its own individual sport. It is known for the camaraderie between players, even between opposing teams.
“[My favorite thing] would be that moment right before a game starts in a tournament,” Jamieson said. “You’re scared, excited, terrified, but also very confident. Between the teams, we all love each other, we think well of each other, we help each other up after plays, even though we put each other on the ground.”
Head coach of the men’s team and coordinator of the Kingwood Rugby Club, Harve Hulett has been in and around rugby since 1982 and has coached for many years.
“You have to be a little bit aggressive,” Hulett said. “There is tackling; you have to be prepared to get hit.”
Hulett works with the girl’s coach, Joey Dill, to help schedule matches and fundraise.
“I’m talking to other coaches about two times a week,” Hulett said. “We’re working to get a list of dates and times, our girl’s and men’s teams are competitive this year, but with COVID, everything is up in the air.”
The Kingwood Girl’s Rugby team is competitive, making it to the state championship numerous times in the past 10 years, winning the title in 2013, and placing in the top five every year after that until COVID hit.
“COVID-19 is definitely messing with our plans,” Jamieson said. “It’s been hard, but we’re very determined, very strong-minded, but also positive minded.”
Jamieson was elected as captain her junior year and reelected her senior year, and she believes it is because she is a caring individual. She always carries ibuprofen and a first-aid kit in her car for the girls on her team.
“I believe my experience in leadership has a factor in me being captain,” Jamieson said. “I also have a very caring side. I’m not only soft on people, I can put someone in their right place by being hard enough to keep them motivated. I feel like I can push someone and help them get there.”
She is affectionately called “Mama J” by the other girls on the team who look up to Jamieson as a friend and captain. The team has become more of a family, with practices being something that is looked forward to during the week.
“We practice Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30-7 p.m. at River Grove Park and on Sundays from 1-3 p.m. at RMS,” Jamieson said, “It’s very joyful, it’s very nice to be there, there’s no hardships or doubts. It’s very open and family-like.”
Jamieson has no doubt that people are misled by the representation of rugby in the media. Highlights of bloody tackles don’t accurately reflect the aspects of the game.
“People have this set idea of what rugby is, and it’s hard to show them the truth of it; it’s a fun and enjoyable sport, not just highlights on TV,” Jamieson said. “What’s the best part of rugby? Everything. From top to bottom, the team, the plays, the coaches, to being out on the field.”
The girl’s team is expected to have a strong season after having practiced for months, putting in work outside of practice. The team is made up not of just athletes, but student-athletes that represent their team and their school out on the field.
“I am fully confident in this team going to state, winning state even,” Jamieson said. “Everyone has self confidence and put that together as a team, I believe we’ll put all that work out there and leave it out there as a team. Whether we win or lose, we will know we put our all into it.”
Before one dismisses rugby, Jamieson has a challenge.
“Just watch it, come out to a practice; you don’t have to have cleats or anything. Just come out and watch what we do,” Jamieson said. “I mainly say that because it gets rid of that stereotype of rugby; they see it and go ‘I can do this, I’m capable.’ They don’t know they can do it until after they watch rugby.”
Donations are very much welcomed and appreciated by the team, as is support by buying and wearing merchandise. The girls expect to have their first tournament Feb. 13 at The Woodlands Youth Rugby Club’s “Come and Take It” tournament.
Jamieson encourages everyone, but especially high school girls, to give rugby a chance. Learning about it and breaking down stereotypes are the only ways to broaden one’s perspective. In the end, she equates rugby to pineapple on pizza.
“Don’t be afraid to go outside the box, do something you weren’t expecting to do,” Jamieson said. “I definitely didn’t know I would be playing rugby all my high school years. It was very new to me; I had no idea what the sport was or what the ball looked like, but I fell in love with it. It became my life.
“You don’t have to fall in love with it but know about it. Be able to say, ‘Hey, this is for me,’ or ‘Hey, I tried it, but it isn’t for me.” It’s like pineapple pizza, you can’t say you don’t like it until you try it.”