Min Merritt and Jessie Watson. Merritt is president of the Elk Valley Rugby Football Club, and Watson is a rugby coach. The two were working together for BC Rugby’s ‘Girls Can Rugby’ initiative, meant to bring young girls into the sport. (Joshua Fischlin/The Free Press)

Min Merritt and Jessie Watson. Merritt is president of the Elk Valley Rugby Football Club, and Watson is a rugby coach. The two were working together for BC Rugby’s ‘Girls Can Rugby’ initiative, meant to bring young girls into the sport. (Joshua Fischlin/The Free Press)

‘Girls Can Rugby’ event seeks to get young girls involved in the sport

The event will take place at Prentice Park on April 23

Elk Valley girls who want to get involved in rugby will have a chance to do so at a ‘Girls Can Rugby’ event in Fernie on April 23.

The event is part of a new initiative from BC Rugby “aimed at attracting and retaining” young girls in the sport, and getting them involved with local clubs throughout the province, according to Rob Bartlett of BC Rugby.

The free event will take place at Prentice Park from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and be open to girls aged 10 to 18 from across the Elk Valley, said Min Merritt, president of the Elk Valley Rugby Football Club (EVRFC), which is facilitating the event.

The day will include information and activities for those interested in getting involved.

“It’s well-recognized that in sport generally, and in the case of rugby as well, it’s a male-dominated sport,” Merritt said.

“BC Rugby is looking to redress the balance a little bit.”

She said that, though more girls participate in sport at the elementary school level, there’s “quite a big dropout of girls as they’re in adolescence and in high school levels.”

“They’re trying to encourage girls to continue to participate in sport.”

Jessie Watson is going to be head coaching through the event. Though she only began playing when she was in her second year of university, she has been at it now for 12 years.

She said that rugby is a “great sport in general”, but what makes it really great and stand out is the community.

“You can go anywhere in the world, and if you can find a rugby club, you immediately have a whole host of brand new friends that will be friends for life,” she said, adding that it welcomes people from all walks of life.

Watson also pushed back against the idea that it’s a violent and aggressive game, saying that a lot of control and effort goes into contact element of the sport, and that it’s “not nearly as scary as it looks.”

“The whole focus (of the event) will certainly be around the girls having fun and being active.”

Merritt said rugby is not just about physical health, but mental health too.

“It’s a great sport for those young people who are feeling vulnerable right now.”

Watson echoed that sentiment, saying “it’s a great confidence builder.”

“In sport in general there’s not a ton of equity yet. So it’s something that we really need to work towards,” she said.

“And hopefully this event helps us do that.”

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