Cochrane's Bow Valley Rugby Club (BVRC) is expanding their female teams as a way to keep girls involved in sports as they get older.

With a noticeable decline of females sticking with sports as they enter the tween/teen years, JoAnne Howard, Coach for BVRC says the Club decided to do something about it.

Taking a hard look at their own offerings they realized, they too, had a gap when it came to female play. "We looked at our Club, and we realized we didn't really have anywhere for them to go. We would take girls up through the 'Minis' but then we would have to send our athletes into Calgary. So we have been working really hard over the last while to give these girls the opportunity to play in their hometown."

Tweaking the programs has made a huge difference, shares Howard. "We have really grown it and our girls' registration now is equal to our boys. As far as the sport of rugby goes, it is petty impressive. Rugby has generally been known as a boy sport but we recognize the fact that it is really important to keep girls engaged and playing sports for the obvious reasons of fitness, being part of a team, and the confidence building we see within the sport itself."

There has been a lot of positive feedback from both the female players and their parents, says Howard. "As a coach, it is really nice to see a female show up to play and she says, 'I don't think I can ever do that', whether it be to throw a tackle, jump in a lineout or be in a scrum...and then they do it. That is when they realize how powerful they can actually be."

Starting as young as age 5, girls play co-ed up until U11. "Once they get to U13, they do have to play on a girls-only team mostly due to physical strength and changes in their bodies. We have now developed a U13 and a U15 team and this summer we are getting set to have a U18 as well, and, of course, we have a women's league as well. So technically you can be 5 to 95 and play rugby in Cochrane."

While Howard isn't exactly sure why so many U13 girls drop out of sports, rugby decided to step up and create an atmosphere that is fun and inclusive. "We don't do cuts; it doesn't matter what their skill level or body shape is because we need girls of all sizes and abilities, because in rugby there is a position for everybody."

Helping to offset any feelings of intimidation felt by new females or any player, for that matter, Howard says they offer those interested to come and try the sport for a few practices before committing one hundred percent. "We will work one on one with them and show them the basics. Safety will always be our number one concern with our players, and it is a reason why we invest so much money into training our coaches properly. We want to provide safe coaching and game knowledge to all the players so that injury and time out of the game is drastically reduced."

Still looking to add more girls to the roster, those interested can join at any time. With BVRC also taking on the coaching role for the Bow Valley/ Cochrane High School blended team, the hope is that they will be able to retain a majority of the female players. "When you look at rugby on a world scale, as far as Canadian women go, we are making some impressive headway in the rugby world, and so it really gives the girls something to play and strive for."

While there has been a heightened focus on growing the female program, Bow Valley Rugby Club is really all about equal play for all. "At the end of the day our goal and objective is to get kids playing rugby, but more than anything we want to see the kids in Cochrane be physically active and never feel like they can't do something they want to do."

Bow Valley Rugby Club continues to gain traction and is known as the best in Alberta. "For the past two years, we have come out on top as the second and the number one  (2018) best club in Alberta for the initiatives we are taking. We have ten, Level One and Level Two NCCP World Rugby Certified Coaches that are females so we have a really great balance between men and women in coaching positions as well as admin. So it really was a no-brainer to make sure we have a place for girls to play."

To find out more about all their programs, go HERE.

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