Celebrating 16 Years!

When I (Wendy) look back it doesn’t feel like 16 years have passed but as they say time flies when you’re having fun. I had a conversation a few weeks ago for a podcast (available soon) that really made me sit back and reflect on YSC’s impact over the years. We were one of the first sites dedicated to covering women’s rugby and it continues be an honor to be a pioneer.

Let’s take a look at a few of our favorite memories and some major milestones.

The Early Years: 2006-2009

I began the adventure in March 2006 after finding rugby at the University of Oklahoma. Shortly after the site launched I relocated to Texas to play for the Austin Valkyries. I had fallen in love with the sport and starting the site allowed me to share my passion and connect with others.

The site was originally called West Rugby and was launched on Blogspot (now called Blogger). I had created websites before on the Geocities platform and could write some HTML, but I felt quite fancy using a proper blogging platform. Blogging was just taking off at this time and the style of writing was more journalistic, so you’ll see that in my early entries.

I started by covering teams in the Western Rugby Football Union: Eastern Rockies, Great Plains, Heart of America, Missouri, Ozark, Rio Grande, and Texas. Since there was a lack of women’s rugby information out there and the landscape was hard to follow (still is) word got out pretty fast about what I was doing and visitors to the site grew quickly. Our early fans were so passionate and are still our favorites, you know who you are!

One of our best moves during this period was combining with Fil Keuppens to grow the women’s bracket of Lone Star 7s in Dallas, TX. This allowed us to start connecting with teams from around the country as we tried to entice them to come to our tournament. We went from having three to four Texas teams to having ten to twelve from all over USA.

We also started doing raffles in the early years and were lucky enough to be gifted merchandise. This was critical as it built engagement for us and we were early brand ambassadors for many growing brands. We’re still partnered with Booshie Promo (was Rugby Athletic) and they have supplied us with so many awesome designs over the years.

I also began dipping my toe into covering the rest of the United States and then a few International events. International events were the hardest to find information about because there were very few journalists or bloggers writing about these events.

Expansion: 2010-2015

2010 was a huge year for us as we rebranded the site to be Your Scrumhalf Connection and we went International! By this time I had bought a house, gotten married and Traci began contributing to the site. She began writing some but felt the most comfortable behind the camera.

The year began with a trip to Vegas 7s where when Alex Williams of USA Rugby asked us to find a way to stream the Women’s Invitational Tournament outside the stadium. Neither Traci nor I had done this before, but we figured it out and found friends & family to help us along the way. As far as we know we were the first to stream women’s rugby in the United States. We returned to Vegas for many years and once matches started being played in the stadium we would film from the press box. These events began Wendy’s commentary career and you can watch them on our Youtube channel.

After Vegas we had the wild idea to go to the 2010 Rugby World Cup in England. We say wild because we were poor young adults who had never traveled alone internationally before. We applied for credentials from the IRB (now World Rugby) and waited weeks and weeks to hear back. We even bought match tickets as a back up in case we weren’t accepted. We finally heard that we had been granted credentials and we were over the moon!

This RWC was huge because the sports world and journalists were finally paying attention. Tickets went quickly and the grounds for the pool matches were overwhelmed. Some of the matches were on terrestrial TV locally in the UK but that was it. We had brought all of our camera equipment and filmed from the press tent. We didn’t ask for permission, but just set up our camera and acted like we belonged. No one said anything! You can watch those matches (complete with poles of the tent in the way) along with many others from over the years on our Youtube channel.

At that time we were “live blogging” games where we would literally type everything that was happening on a blog post. We had some of our best refresh rates on the site because match reports didn’t really exist and the IRB would only post days or a week later. Looking back we helped drive the demand for match reports and now they are plentiful.

Tournament merchandise was still very limited at this time and so I bought a New Zealand jacket off the internet to wear but then realized it wasn’t very impartial so I sported a YSC sticker over the logo for the entire time we were there.

We were also lucky enough to finally meet lots of our international friends and we even stayed with Ali Donnelly of the newly created site, Scrum Queens. The RWC fell over my birthday and they even made me a cake and gave us sunglasses that screamed “I’m a British tourist”!

In 2011 we continued our broadcasting for USA Rugby and we covered the U20 Nations Cup at UCS in Santa Barbara, CA. We tried to stream the matches but had a hard time getting internet. Back then you had to hardwire as hotspots were unreliable or really expensive. So we made friends with the receptionist at the USC dorms and he let us run a Cat-5 from their modem out the window to the field for the weekend. No big deal but it was over 250 feet and we were so worried that someone would trip on it or unplug it. We continued to stream and commentate USA events through the years with Alex.

Fast forward to 2014 and we attended the Rugby World Cup in France. This tournament was starkly different from 2010 we were  confident that we would receive media credentials, we didn’t have to film because it was more widely broadcast and this time the press box was full with journalists from all over! The RWC Final was the best experience of my life, the Stade was packed with fans and we were there to experience it!

Other milestones included Wendy being inducted in the Oklahoma Rugby Hall of Fame and the YSC family grew bigger in  as we welcomed our first child Cole.

Change of focus: 2016-Present

Things were a bit busier with a new baby in the house and I was working on accelerating my referee career. 

I was solo for a few years at Vegas 7s and starting in 2016 the women were allowed to play alongside the men in the stadium. There was limited broadcast available and they wouldn’t allow us to stream anymore. So in 2016, I went as a referee manager and was blessed to hold the whistle for one of the exhibition matches in the stadium. 

Also in 2016, I was asked to be part of the Technical Zone for PRO Rugby (now Major League Rugby (MLR)) and still continue that role today.

Traci and I missed attending the 2017 Rugby World Cup in Ireland but reported from afar. It was getting easier because matches were on TV and journalists were clamoring to do interviews and match reports. We were able to watch all the matches from the comfort of our home for the first time! I didn’t live blog anymore but rather live tweeted on Twitter.

In 2018 I was asked to become a Referee Manager for USA Rugby’s test matches. This was a whole new exciting experience working with the referee and the teams behind the scenes. In my personal life my career was blooming and this was taking time away from my rugby passion (obsession). As a result I changed YSC from interviews and match reports which are more time intensive to be more focused on curation. I would gather all the women’s rugby news I could find and share it on social media and then post a weekly update on the site.

With the suspension of rugby due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 I started summarizing the weekly posts in short videos on my Youtube channel. I was missing the connection with my rugby friends and this was another way to keep sharing. I’ve now done 61 videos and even started posting on TikTok.

In 2021 I was inducted into my second Hall of Fame with the Texas Rugby Union. It was fascinating to hear them listing YSC as one of my reasons for being inducted!

2022 has been a strong year for women’s rugby with several qualifying matches for the 2021 Rugby World Cup (to be played this year) and now the TikTok Six Nations. We’re very hopeful that we’ll be able to attend the RWC in New Zealand this year. Will be interesting with all the momentum of past RWCs but coming out of COVID…what will that mean?

Whew, that was fun to look back at all the memories and milestones through the years. To think that in 2010 we were one of the first journalists to attend a Women’s Rugby World Cup to now…what progress has been made in the sport.

So proud to have been involved in our own small way and along for all the adventures. Here’s to many more!

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