By Elise Franck
In high school I was known for being quiet and shy. I never cursed or got in trouble. All in all, I was a boring student who hung out in the background and snapped at anyone who got near, just another kid waiting for the chance to leave a small town.
But since I never took the chance to step out of my comfort zone in high school, I was lost in the crowd when I arrived at college. SUNY New Paltz may not be a big school by university standards, but to someone who graduated with only 50 other people in a hometown of a couple thousand, it was enormous. I was shyer than ever before, even though I didn’t want to be.
Then one day, early freshman year, I went to the gym and someone running on the track next to me remarked, “you look like a prop.”
Turns out she played rugby and prop was one of the fifteen positions on a team. She invited me to come watch a practice the next day. As a lonely, bored, new student, I had nothing better to do. Two days and two weird, sweaty, funny practices later, I was hooked. I had played soccer and ran track in high school, and briefly practiced Tae Kwon Do. But while those sports were fun, they didn’t capture my whole attention the way rugby did. Being completely surrounded by brave, wild and tough women was a new experience for me, and at the same time a space to feel comfortable in my own skin. For once I was able to be myself around new people.
My new confidence didn’t just apply to the rugby field, either. I was more relaxed and focused in class, at work and in public. Before, I had been constantly tense and anxious. I laughed and cursed more often and avoided social interaction less often. I started to live life unfiltered. All because of one friendly person at the gym and a brutal sport with an oddly-shaped ball.