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The article in Rugby Magazine’s June 1999 issue described the successful blueprint that Ontario, Canada, employed to spur the growth of its high school program for girls. In many ways, this experience served as a guideline for the USA’s efforts a decade later to introduce rugby for girls into the national school system.
In 1988, Ontario fielded only four girls’ sides, and, 12-years later, the total mushroomed to 350 fifteens, establishing rugby as the fastest growing sport within the province, developing at a quicker pace than lacrosse or ice hockey.
Rugby started to be taught in the high schools’ physical education classes. In addition, younger girls (i.e.; aged 13-15) were introduced to touch rugby. Parallel to the expansion, the Ontario Rugby Union was quick to provide referee and coaching classes to keep up with the burgeoning high school player involvement.
By 1989, Ontario mounted its first provincial girls’ championship, contested in June every year after. Two schools, Brock HS and Waterloo Oxford, dominated the event, the two winning all the titles. Brock HS toured the UK in 1991.
The ultimate success occurred in 1999 when an Ontario women’s team – comprised of girls and woman – defeated powerful Beantown at the Saranac Lake Can-Am event. The loss represented Beantown’s first defeat ever at Saranac Lake.
With spectacular and sudden growth came a myriad of new problems. Specifically, these were the availability of playing fields, finding unpaid coaches, and, importantly, overcoming resistance from existing track, lacrosse, and soccer programs.
A positive solution to the coaching dilemma came from senior Women’s clubs in Ontario that adopted some of the high schools for co-training during the winter These clubs welcomed the high school athletes in the summer months to come train along with the older members.
Girls high school rugby proved to be a popular concept whose time had come.