NGWSD: Savannah Bauder clapped back with being named the Canada West Rugby Player of the Week after being told 'rugby's not a girl sport'

From being named a Canada West Rugby 15s Player of the Year to being named the Canada West Rugby Player of the Week this past Tuesday, UBC’s Savannah Bauder has had an astonishing year in rugby. However, her success in the sport hasn’t always come easily.

Bauder joined UBC’s women’s rugby team in 2020, two years after playing her first U Sports season on SFU’s women’s soccer team. She says that, throughout high school, rugby was always secondary to soccer — she joined the sport in eighth grade, following her sister who was a forward on their high school's team.

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Getting into rugby wasn’t cut-and-dry for Bauder, as others doubted her small size, as well as her ability to focus on two sports simultaneously.

Questions also arose about young women’s place in the sport. “In grade nine, I ended up getting injured ... Then, my soccer coach told me that rugby wasn't a girls’ sport and that I shouldn't be playing it,” she said.

This attitude towards women’s rugby wasn’t limited to her interaction with her coach.

Bauder shared that her high school team was always seen as less deserving than the boys’ team. Watching her male counterparts getting preferential treatment, like new equipment and field time priority, was both aggravating and discouraging for Bauder.

That said, the North Vancouver native stayed positive and spoke how these doubts just increased her motivation. “That was kind of my incentive for wanting to play even more, because, you know, when someone says you can't do something, you just want to go do it,” Bauder said.

Spending much of her time running around from practice to practice, Bauder said she’s never had much time to watch women’s sports on TV, instead looking up at the female athletes taking the rugby pitch alongside her.

Bauder said that she has an immense amount of respect for her older teammates, as well as the alumni she’s met through the sport. This respect also comes to mind when thinking about National Girls and Women in Sport Day (NGWSD) which was on February 2.

“[It’s] crazy to think that they have worked so hard from having nothing to everything that we have now,” Bauder said, speaking to the experiences of past UBC women’s players. “Before, they didn't even have a change room that had hot water.”

She said that being an athlete has given her a new perspective: “appreciating the little things that people do, because you know how hard it is to push through.”

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Looking forward to the next generation of girls in rugby, Bauder spoke of her own experiences and the community that she has found — something she circled back to throughout her interview.

“[A] big part of why I play rugby is just the community ... If it weren't for sports, I'd probably not know half of my best friends that I have today,” Bauder said.

Encouraging others, Bauder also recalled her former self; once the tiniest girl on her high school’s team, she knows first hand that one can find a place in the sport, regardless of shape, size or ability.

“There's literally no standards for your body type, or what you look like,” she said, encouraging others to not shy away from getting involved. “You have a place no matter what, so don't be afraid to try out.”