Seniors tell their stories by highlighting the positive impact their time playing Wisconsin Girls’ Rugby has had on them.

Mary Beth Burns

Catholic Memorial High School

“Being mentally ready is more important than being physically prepared” Burnsy

One Tackle at a Time

“Ready, ready, ready up!” was echoed by all my teammates in unison as we sprinted together in the beginning seconds of the rugby state championship. Not long after those few seconds, my rugby career would begin to change as I began pondering what the word “ready” meant. I had always believed that being ready meant being physically capable of continuously running for the sixty chaotic minutes the ball is in play and leaving my heart on the field. I still believe this, but ever since the first half of the championship game, I have known that word means much more.   

The change occurred not long after the first whistle was blown. I had known I was as physically capable as I would ever be and had no doubt that my fitness would not be a burden through that game. My mental game was where I was taking a hit. To say our team did not start the game as we wished would be an understatement; we forgot everything we had been so tirelessly preparing for. Our bodies could perform the work effortlessly, but our minds were the boulders blocking us. Personally, my mindset was impeded by the mistakes I had made and my inability to forget them and keep playing. Soon I was questioning myself and my abilities. And once that mentality set in, my brain went everywhere and nowhere at the same time, resulting in a deep panic. A whirlwind of doubtful thoughts was swirling in my brain. After I had missed a tackle, one of my teammates told me, “You can’t afford to miss those.” That is when I knew I was in desperate need to get out of my mental funk. 

I took a minute. I looked around and saw my fourteen other teammates on the field with me. We were in the precise positions we had been in all fall that lead us to an undefeated record. “Breathe,” I said to myself. “Here and now,” I continued. Just focus on the here and now and nothing else matters. And that was all it took for me to get my head in the game and just do my job the best I could. From then on, my mind became clear as I took one tackle at a time and stopped worrying about the outcome of the game. 

Weeks later, I learned that my stats from that day ended up being tied for the second highest in the game. When I heard that, I was sure it was a mistake. There was no way I could have performed that well in the panic that was my mind during the first half. But as I look back on it, I realize that I took that panic and turned it into motivation: the motivation to make those who were watching and counting on me proud. 

The setbacks I overcame after the first half of the state championship game taught me more about myself than the last eighteen years have. I learned that the physical body cannot function if the mind is not also willing; being mentally ready is more important than being physically prepared. If my mentality is focused and concentrated on one thing and one thing only, then I will succeed. So from now on, in everything I do, in and out of rugby, I will set my mind to concentrate on one challenge at a time and focus on the here and now.  

Madi Martinez

Hamilton High School

What rugby means to me. Honestly the list goes on and on. But I have two particular things that really stand out as important aspects of the sport, family and confidence. 

I have played rugby from my sophomore year through my senior year, and throughout those three years, I have looked at my rugby team as an extension of my family. I depended on these girls, and they depended on me. We worked to hold each other up and push each other to reach our goals. I think that the sport of rugby especially is a very friendly and all around welcoming community. I find myself making long lasting connections with the girls that I met through this sport, and I can simply say, where would I be without these crazy, fun loving girls in my life? I am so thankful that I gave this sport a shot and after that first summer practice, I absolutely fell in love. 

Since my freshman year, I have struggled with my confidence in basically every aspect of my life, including my rugby skills. Especially junior year, I seemed to focus more on the negatives, continuously saying that I couldn’t do this or that. I am so lucky to have had coaches that cared about us girls on a deeper level. My coaches never saw me simply as a random girl on their team; they saw me as an individual and were always pushing us to improve upon our own weaknesses. I had many discussions with my coach about my self confidence, and I think that having my coach reach out to me when she saw that I was struggling was very helpful for me to work even harder at improving the way I saw myself. For three years, rugby has helped me to build upon my athletic skills, but honestly I have been able to build up my self confidence. I have found so much out about myself through this sport and through those that I met on the field. I think that without rugby I would be a completely different person, and with the large impact that rugby has made in my life, I am very lucky to say that I have grown into a stronger and happier individual. 

Olivia Pili

MadTown Furies

In the spring of my junior year, I started playing rugby after my high school football coaches said I couldn’t play football. I was eager to start playing rugby to show how strong and powerful young women can be. After my team’s first practice that spring, I knew I had fallen in love with the sport. Throughout my life, I tried playing a variety of sports; however, rugby has shown me how a team is more than just a group of athletes. My rugby team became another family to me.  

This past fall, my rugby family was one of the only factors that helped me fight through the pandemic. With school online and all events cancelled, I could barely see positives even in the little things. Though the season was cut short, what we had of a season helped me find hope that there were good things to come in my future. 

Evelyn Barta

Catholic Memorial High School

“Was I Good Enough?”

As I wiped my sweaty palms on my shorts and looked up into the eyes of my opponent, my older brother’s words echoed in my mind.  “I win!”   I tried to push the thoughts away, but as my heart pounded, time seemed to stand still. I remembered all the games and races from my childhood that ended with those two words and me in tears.  But that was a long time ago, and I was ready for this.  I had trained hard and studied the game.  In those moments, however, some doubts still crept into my head.  Was I good enough?  Could I actually play a sport competitively, or would it end in failure?

My brother was two years older than me and athletic; he excelled at every sport he tried.  Everything was a competition with him, and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Racing to the car, eating breakfast, brushing your teeth, playing sports. And I was always on the losing end.  Eventually I just gave up trying and developed an aversion to anything involving competition.  Instead I played with my dolls and danced.

As we entered our teens, my brother became less competitive with me, and I regretted not being involved in sports. I was starting high school, and wanted to get involved in something active, but starting a sport seemed scary because most of my friends had been playing since they were kids. Lucky for me, my brother’s friends were on the school’s rugby team. They encouraged me to join. I went to summer lifting sessions and met a few girls on the team. Everyone welcomed me, but I still felt nervous and unsure of my abilities. Even so, I trained over the summer and prepared both mentally and physically to compete.

Day after day, week after week, practices went on.  With each practice, my skills improved, and I gained confidence; this confidence fueled in me a desire to compete.  By mid-fall, as we prepared for our first match, I had fallen in love the sport.  As I lined up for my first match, heart pounding, palms sweating, I locked eyes with my opponent.  The sir’s whistle blew, and I ran toward my opponent and took her down.  I felt the rush of my adrenaline as the game continued, and now I understood the incredible thrill of victory.  I worked harder at improving my physical and mental game over the course of my freshman year so that by the fall of my sophomore year I started in varsity matches. This is when I realized I was passionate about rugby. Each off season I trained harder and returned stronger in my game. This year, I was chosen to be captain, and I am both thrilled and humbled by this opportunity to help other girls like me find themselves through the game of rugby. 

My life is divided into two sections: before I started playing rugby and after I decided to play rugby.   When I started playing rugby, I thought I would hate it.  However, it became so much a part of my identity that I realized I needed to play.  In addition to sparking my competitive edge, playing rugby has also taught me numerous invaluable life-lessons.  Realizing I was good at a competitive sport gave me the confidence I needed to blossom in high school.  Working hard to become better taught me grit and determination in and beyond sports.  Feeling a team dynamic showed me the importance of true friends.  This confidence, determination and comradery fostered leadership skills I use as captain and apply to all aspects of my life.  Playing rugby gave me the perspective to understand my perceptions of the world around me and has shaped me into who I am today. In the end, joining the rugby team was the best decision of my life.

Bayli Wisialowski

Oak Creek High School

 I have been playing rugby for Oak Creek High School since I was a freshman. Rugby has created so many opportunities for me. I have made so many new friends and met so many amazing people. The comradery of the sport is so inspiring. It makes you feel like you actually belong there. Rugby has taken me to beautiful places. It has enlightened me to do a new path for my future. I will never forget the fun tournaments and meeting teams from all over the US. I can’t wait to see what rugby will present to me after high school. I will always be grateful for this sport and my family for pushing me to work hard at it every day. Thank you to everyone that was on this rugby journey with me. It was something I will never forget.

Dani McQuillan

Pulaski Flyers

Rugby has given me many opportunities. I have played for many select teams, and I have traveled to many different states. I have played for the Wisconsin All-Stars and have traveled all the way to New York. I have played for Badger Selects, and we traveled to Missouri, where we toured and played at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. Badger Selects have also traveled to North Carolina too. I got the honor to play for the Midwest Thunderbirds out of Ohio, and we traveled to Florida to play a tournament and had a blast. Overall, these teams have taught me how to be a great teammate, how to be a versatile player, and how to make life long friendships. I will never forget the experiences that I have come across, rugby will always be a part of my life, and I’m forever grateful for the sport. 

Amelia Sitzberger

Kettle Moraine Knightmares

Rugby is more than just a sport to me. It connects teammates to one another. It develops mental toughness and discipline. It becomes a lifelong obsession. I was first attracted to it because it was a physical sport that required athleticism. I now love it because I have met and become friends with many new people who enjoy the sport, and I enjoy the challenge of rugby. In my opinion, it is highly competitive because of its rough nature, but there is an addictive thrill of getting a tackle, making a great play, and, of course, scoring a try.

Rugby has impacted my life by developing me as a person and leader. My personality has become tougher, and I have learned the importance of focus and a good mindset in every situation. My leadership skills have developed considerably after years of experience. I have developed the leadership characteristics that I would want in a good leader, and I have taken initiative to become a better leader for my team.

I have also had many new experiences with rugby through traveling and meeting new people by joining club teams. It was always an adventure, and I learned a great deal about the sport. There are so many different opportunities that are available within the rugby community: traveling club teams, tournaments, college teams, adult club teams, etc. There are always opportunities to play rugby and have a great time

Lexi Schuurmans

Pulaski Flyers

Besides learning to play the game and coming to love it, the most important thing that I have gained is friendships. Pulaski Flyers is made up of girls from any school that choose to play for us. While it is mostly girls from Pulaski, there are a few girls from other schools as well. This sport enabled me to become friends with girls that I would have never met if it weren’t for rugby. While I made new friends, I also strengthened my friendships with old friends as well. Once I became a part of our rugby team, I learned how close everyone is, which you don’t find with every sport. I am forever grateful that my friend pushed me to join rugby because I would have never made the friendships that I have during my rugby adventure!