Women playing rugby - An 'old boy's game': Beyond the social expectations

Year: 2001

Author: Haynes, John, Miller, Judy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Female participation in sport and physical activity has been identified as being less prevalent than for males, particularly in Australia. For those women who are participating in sport, there are strong socialisation influences for them to play sports such as netball, hockey, swimming and gymnastics. These sports have subtly been noted as being acceptable for women. Generally, similar pressures have endorsed men to play sports such as rugby union, rugby league, cricket, and soccer as the sports principally sanctioned as measures of maleness. When women participate in a sport that is typically thought of as being 'male', such as rugby union, they appear to be moving outside the social expectations. What motivates women to play a 'male' sport and what is the associated culture that surrounds them that keeps them in the sport? Seventy two women were surveyed using questionnaires, and two were purposefully sampled for follow up interviews. Group results indicate the majority of women are university educated, and they have participated at competitive or representative levels in other sports before playing Rugby. Most women are influenced by their peers to join the sport, and the social culture was their major motivation to play. Two case studies are presented as profiles of women who love to play rugby and they represent and confirm the relevant trends found in the group data.