Rugby’s lesbian marketing officer wants you to play the field

Rugby is going to be an Olympic sport for the first time in 2016 and the out Chief Marketing Officer of USA Rugby wants to raise the profile of the sport in the this country. Pam Kosanke discovered rugby after college, where she played softball, and fell in love with the sense of community in the sport.

Pam playing in 2006

“I call it the Land of Misfit Toys,” she told Outsports. “It’s very accepting. There’s all different types of players, there’s all different sizes and shapes. Even the positions themselves lend themselves to people with all different backgrounds and types. Anybody can be a rugby player. And the game embraces it.

“But people fall in love with it because it’s like a family. The women and men take care of each other extremely well, they have great relationships, there’s brother and sister bars. When I first joined, there was probably less acceptance among the men of the lesbian crowd, but now it’s not even an issue.”

That welcoming culture is part of what Kosanke thinks makes rugby appealing to the LGBT community because it mimics the way many of us “misfits” found a place to belong in the LGBT community.

Women’s rugby has long been a safe space for lesbians and bisexual women to find a supportive team environment. For many women looking for a place to play in college, either because they never played a sport seriously or because they didn’t play at a collegiate level, rugby gave them that chance. The culture of the sport, from swapping jerseys between “A” side and “B” side matches, to post-game drink-ups complete with singing and socializing with the other team, is warm and inviting. Even while I had a pretty great team in college I was envious of the pack of women with whom my roommate played. They had each other’s backs, which for many newly out (or ready to maybe sometime possibly consider coming out) was invaluable.

I am thrilled to see that USA Rugby is not only embracing the LGBT community by having a lesbian as its choice to lead up its marketing efforts but that they are also looking to reach out to the LGBT community. I’m heartened by this choice because it reflects the changing sports landscape. When the WNBA started it enjoyed a lot of support from lesbians but seemed hesitant to market to our community. That league has come around and its nice to see rugby embracing its longtime fans even as it looks to expand the sports appeal. I’m hoping the “Island of Misfit Toys” becomes USA Rugby’s official marketing slogan. I’d wear the hell out of that T-shirt.

What do you think about casting rugby as a band of “misfits”? Are you looking forward to watching rugby in Rio 2016?