‘Saturday is rugby day’

Imagine you are working the drive-thru in a fast food restaurant on a Saturday morning and a customer excitedly screams, “Saturday is rugby day!” to you.

On Saturdays, former rugby player and fan Katie Cockrell is likely to be found at UNA’s rugby games, supporting the team.

“It’s very primal,” Cockrell said. “It’s like a breath of fresh air to watch people do something based on instinct.”

Cockrell, who played for the women’s rugby team at Middle Tennessee State University, attends the games with her friends Rachel Miller and Grace Ashley, as well as her dog Celine. Celine wears a purple bandana, and Cockrell tells her she is the mascot.

“(Cockrell) doesn’t know that many people on the team, but she loves it,” Ashley said. “She’s really dedicated.”

Ashley, who met Cockrell while they were both majoring in music at UNA, said Cockrell taught her about rugby, and they try to get all of their friends to go to the rugby games.

People at UNA games ask Cockrell questions such as what just happened in the game or about the point system.

“She kind of talks to everybody,” Ashley said.

Hunter Jackson, who described Cockrell as “completely hardcore,” said she turned it into one of his favorite sports. They used to play rugby in her front yard.

“I gave her a black eye one time,” Jackson said. “We were on the same team, trying to tackle the same guy. He ducked between us and I punched her in the face.”

Cockrell’s eye swelled shut instantly, but she “manned it out” and did not cry, Jackson said.

At one time, Jackson wanted to play rugby for UNA, and Cockrell helped him with a proposal for the coach, as well as doing workouts with him so that he could try to make the team, he said.

Before UNA even had rugby, Jackson said they tried to put together their own rugby team.

Cockrell began playing rugby after she watched the men’s team at MTSU and decided to give it a try.

“I went to one practice and they just threw me in the next game,” she said.

Cockrell said even though the game of rugby is rough, players of rugby are friendly people.

“No matter how brutal it gets, everyone’s cool with each other as soon as the game is over,” she said.

Schools usually have a rugby house, where players invite the other team over after games. The players drink beer and get to know each other.

“It’s the social aspect,” Cockrell said. “The important thing about the rugby house is that’s where you sing rugby songs and rugby chants.”

Rugby players feel a connection with “fellow ruggers,” Cockrell said.

“Rugby players are a special kind of people,” she said. “To know what it’s like to get out there and have someone knock the wind out of you — you feel we’re just on the same level.”

Cockrell said UNA’s rugby team is really good, considering they are a new team.

“Usually new teams get killed their first five years, and UNA can hold their own already,” she said.

Rugby at UNA is underappreciated, Cockrell said.

“If more people would come out (to the games), then they would also love rugby and know that Saturday is rugby day,” she said.