ENCINITAS — A new all-girls rugby league is starting in Encinitas, Del Mar and Carmel Valley in response to a major spike in interest in the sport.
San Diego Girls Rugby is hosting the new league, which is for girls in third through eighth grade. Practice begins for the new league Nov. 1.
Girls rugby has risen in popularity in North County, especially in the North Coastal region, where four schools have now added high school rugby programs, and a competitive girls rugby program has entered into its second year.
“It definitely has grown a lot over the past few years,” said Hannah Lockwood, director of San Diego Girls Rugby. “People don’t actually know that the USA has the highest population of women’s rugby players in the world. The biggest obstacle is people just knowing that girls rugby is a choice, not just one for boys.”
Lockwood, an Oregon native, said she played basketball and soccer during her youth before discovering rugby in high school. She played in college at Oregon State University before moving to San Diego to train for the U.S. Olympic team.
“I started playing it because it was so inclusive, in soccer and basketball, I experienced setbacks due to my physical build,” Lockwood said. “On the rugby field, I found that there was a position that worked just for me, and ever since then, I’ve come to believe that the community and the inclusiveness of rugby is not like anything I have every experienced in sports.”
By starting the girls earlier in the sport, Lockwood said she hopes that the sport will expand even more throughout the county, giving girls opportunities for college scholarships and possibly even greater aspirations.
Nikita Wollerman, a former rugby player at Cathedral Catholic who will play for Colorado University this year, said she heard about the new girls league from Lockwood. Wollerman said she strongly encourages girls to give the new league a try.
“I think it is going to be great,” Wollerman said. “I personally wish I would have started younger. I think it is really a great bonding experience for the girls, and I think it will be a great experience for the new girls coming up.”
Practices will be held at Encinitas Community Park, Cardiff Sports Park and Carmel Del Mar Park in Carmel Valley.
People interested in signing up for the league are asked to visit the website, sandiegogirlsrugby.com.