Chelsey Cobler and Kelsey Basham built the EKU women’s rugby team on competitive spirit since they took their position as team coaches. The two grad students took the club sport and turned it into a successful and tight-knit team.
Though it can be compared to football and soccer, rugby is a game of its own. Despite being a heavy-contact sport, rugby players wear no helmets, pads or other protections aside from a mouth guard.
Despite this, the women’s rugby team normally suffers only bruising and the occasional rolled ankle or jammed finger, Coach Chelsey Cobler said. The most severe injuries over the past five years were a broken femur, broken tibia and several torn knee ligaments.
“And occasionally, someone will get the wind knocked out of them,” Cobler said.
The women’s rugby team is composed of 35 players, which is a lot, and useful given that different body types and heights are needed for a balanced team.
“We are very open to anyone, all kinds of people, all kinds of personalities,” said Meranda Quijas, team manager and recruitment officer. “There’s so much diversity on the team.”
McMillan, for example, is one of the team’s “hookers.” The hooker, despite its funny name, is a key position, whose job is to make decisions on what to do with the ball once it’s secured from a scrum (a pile of players fighting over the ball).
Chelsey Cobler and Kelsey Basham, both of who are graduate students at EKU, serve as the team’s coaches.
“For us, we’ve been here awhile and it wasn’t until my very first semester when we really started kicking it into gear,” Quijas said. “The coaches have completely turned the team around. We just won and we kept winning and to everyone who was on the team for a long time, it was a surprise to keep winning games. We surprised everyone.”
Cobler and Basham played soccer in high school. Once they got to college, they wanted to try something different. Something that they could compete at a different level than what they played at in soccer. After learning about rugby, the two couldn’t get enough of it.
Cobler and Basham taught their selves the sport, took over the coaching positions after the previous coach graduated and were soon running the club sport on their own. Once they had a strong number of players, they planned a full season and joined the DII Ohio Valley Conference league.
When Cobler and Basham started coaching four years ago, they brought two options to the team.
“We asked the team, we can take this in two directions,” Basham said. “We can be not so serious or we can be serious. The team was all about it.”
And so Cobler, Basham and the team started the revival of EKU’s women’s rugby team. While they played serious games, they still had fun with each other and the friendly atmosphere didn’t dissipate.
“I think having a serious coach wouldn’t work with us because with us being friends and being in charge, it always worked that way,” Basham said.
The atmosphere of the team is balanced by equal hard work and play time. Not only do the teammates meet on the field, but they also meet up for activities outside the game.
“When we’re at practice and we’re at games, we work hard but we’re also a family,” Cobler said. “We’re just there for each other to hang out, play games, eat food, do campus events together. And it really shows when we play together.”
The spring season starts in March.