2012-06-22 / Sports
Rugby gals pummel and punish
She’s hobbling on a highankle sprain at Woodside Park in Camarillo for a Tuesday night practice with the Ventura County Rugby Club.
Palmer’s dressed in street clothes, but she’s optimistic about playing in this weekend’s Oasis Tournament in San Diego.
Her throbbing ankle looks like one of those California Raisins singers. Miguel Jimenez, a coach, shakes his head in disbelief at Palmer’s gusto.
“This is one of those games where you want to keep going,” Palmer said.
Palmer, a Thousand Oaks resident, plays on the Ventura County Rugby Club’s women’s squad, the Lady Outlaws.
The burgeoning women’s team started with two people: general manager Oy Tate and Stephanie De La Cruz, a player from Camarillo. They went on a “recruiting binge,” Tate said.
At the first practice in October, Tate and De La Cruz pulled together 11 participants—it takes 15 people to field a squad.
By January, the Lady Outlaws had assembled a 22-player team and won their first match. The Lady Outlaws are a Division 2 team in the Southern California Rugby Football Union.
This summer, the club trains for seven-a-side rugby, a faster-paced version of traditional rugby union. Sevens rugby, which originated in Scotland, will be featured at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
Tate has epic goals for Ventura County Rugby Club.
“We need more awareness,” said Tate, who played football and baseball at Thousand Oaks High before picking up rugby at California Lutheran University.
“The bottom line is we need to double the size of our program. My intention is to build this program to be the preeminent women’s rugby club in the nation.”
Jimenez, who also coaches football and soccer, enjoys teaching rugby.
“This sport promotes true teamwork,” said Jimenez, a former player-coach at CLU.
Palmer joined the Lady Outlaws in April.
“I was hooked from day one,” Palmer said.
Palmer played basketball and ran cross country at Canyon High. She started playing rugby in the U.S. Army while stationed in South Korea in 2005. She stopped playing when she returned from her service.
The Thousand Oaks woman has renewed her enthusiasm for the sport.
“It’s the pace of the game. It’s the physicality of it,” Palmer said. “A lot of women’s sports are not high-contact. It’s quick and you’re on the go. There’s nothing not to love about it.
“Something about this game— it’s primitive. You are down to the bare minimum. The only armor you have on is a mouth guard.”
Beyond the pitch, the Lady Outlaws are an admirable bunch.
Vanessa Alvarez works with underprivileged children and in a group home for young women.
De La Cruz works at Senior Concerns care center in Thousand Oaks and volunteers in the community.
Lisa Zaid, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, previously worked at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She’s trying to become a court-appointed special advocate for children.
“Every woman on this team is a good role model,” Palmer said.
Jimenez’s wife, Rosemarie, never played a sport in her life before picking up rugby in October. Miguel Jimenez admitted he had to teach Rosemarie how to run properly.
Now the Camarillo woman is hooked.
“At the first practice, I thought, ‘This is crazy,’” Rosemarie Jimenez said. “The first time I got tackled in a game, I got right back up and shouted, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!’”
Rosemarie Jimenez said there is great camaraderie among the players.
“It’s great for the mind,” she said. “It’s great for the spirit. And I’ve made great friends, too.”
Zaid merges CrossFit, military and Navy SEALs workouts into the training sessions.
“It’s super cool seeing them progress,” said Zaid, a Ventura resident who played full-contact football with the Ventura Black Widows.
Zaid said that there’s a seat at the table for women in contact sports.
“Women in this community are pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable and gender-normative in this sport,” Zaid said.
The Lady Outlaws will suit up for a Santa Monica tournament on Sat., June 30.
There are tentative plans to co-host a sevens rugby tournament with the men’s squad on Sat., Aug. 18.
For more information on the Lady Outlaws, visit http:// venturacountyrugbyclub.com.
The team is seeking players from all over the county, particularly Moorpark and Simi Valley.
“If you’ve never played rugby before, we’ll welcome you with open arms,” De La Cruz said.
“We’ll help you learn the game. If you come out to practice, you’re on the team.”