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Topic: Advocacy - April 24 2024
Howard Women’s Rugby: The Beauty, The Hardships, and Everything In Between

Takunda Rusike is a powerful woman and an encouraging VOICE for change. She found a passion for rugby in her late years of high school and followed her desires to bring more inclusivity to the sport at her university. In this article, we share her story as the founder of the women’s rugby team at Howard University.

By: Izzy Turner

VIS Creator

Topic: Advocacy

April 24 2024

Takunda Rusike is a woman dedicated to bringing inclusivity to sports, specifically women's rugby. Rusike grew up playing basketball, track, tennis, swimming, soccer, and lacrosse, but it wasn’t until her junior year of high school that she found a passion for rugby. She received multiple offers to continue playing rugby for renowned collegiate programs, but she turned them down to follow a greater calling to attend Howard University. Her desire to attend an HBCU and continue playing rugby didn’t align because Howard didn’t have a women’s rugby program when she chose to attend the university. But this didn’t last for long. 

How Did Howard Women's Rugby Begin? 

Once Rusike chose to attend Howard, she knew that she wanted rugby to continue to be a part of her life. She had the opportunity to be a part of the Old Glory International Academy, a renowned rugby club that focuses on developing players and getting them exposure to the professional rugby level. 

“Through networking and connections on the team, I quickly learned Old Glory had a long interest in finding a team at Howard but needed student interest to push it forward,” Rusike says. “The rest is history.” Rusike was the student that pushed for the inception of a Howard women’s rugby team. Through hard work and many meetings, Rusike founded and is now fostering the first and current Howard women’s rugby team. 

Hardships and Inequalities

Creating and continuing to develop the program hasn’t always been easy. “There is no official pathway or form that the university provides,” Rusike says, so it forces a lot of trial and error. Since the program is not a NCAA team, the school consistently tells her that the university owes them nothing. As a result, Rusike learned about Howard being under violation of Title IX through education and conversations with members of VIS and the Howard VIS chapter. “Many of the experiences my team faced were anything but unique” Rusike says. “This violation of compliance has not only meant fewer NCAA women’s teams, but also less monetary support for women's teams.” 

“This gap demonstrates the importance of increasing athletic opportunities for young black women, which has been the goal of our team since its beginning.”

Takunda Rusike, founder of the Howard women's rugby team

Title IX states that the number of women athletes must be proportional to the number of women that make up the student body. She notes that there is a participation gap in Howard’s athletics between men and women athletes, with only 48.1 percent being women athletes despite women making up 67.6 percent of the student population. “This gap demonstrates the importance of increasing athletic opportunities for young black women, which has been the goal of our team since its beginning,” Rusike said during the speech she gave during our Capitol Hill Day briefing on Title IX and the Fair Play for Women Act on February 1. These hardships didn’t stop Rusike, but they inspired her to keep working hard to bring rugby inclusivity to BIPOC women.   

Successes Within Howard’s Women's Rugby Team 

Rusike tells us in her Fair Play Act Briefing speech that there have been many highs within the program since she started it in 2021: “We have been able to attain #2 in the nation, DII, Spring ‘23, #1 CRAA, East Champion, DII, Spring ‘23, and #1 Capital Conference, with Spring ‘23 being the first HBCU competitive rugby team to ever compete for a national title.” While the accomplishments on paper are amazing, it's important to recognize the accomplishment in itself of starting and continuing to grow the program with inconsistent university support. 

What's Next for the Program? 

As the Howard Women’s Rugby team continues to make its mark in sports, Rusike says that this is only the beginning for the program. She hopes that one day the team will be the first HBCU women's rugby team to compete at the NCAA Division One level and join the NIRA 40. She invisions more scholarships for the women on the team, more partnerships with women’s athletic-centered brands, and more professional growth opportunities for the players. 

Rusike is a powerful woman and role model who is working each and every day to bring inclusivity to BIPOC women through rugby. She’s an inspiration for women athletes everywhere and she continues to persevere through any challenge that comes her way to make her dreams a reality. 

Take Action

To learn more about Title IX and the event Rusike attended to advocate for women in sports, check out this article. And if you are inspired by Rusike’s story and want to advocate for your team against potential Title IX violations, sign up to be a VIS Advocate on the VOICEINSPORT Foundation website.