Rugby has been Charlotte Thomas’ passion for the past three years.
The 16-year-old from Greenwood, N.S., has competed at both the regional and provincial levels since being introduced to the sport. Thursday’s decision by the Nova Scotia School Sport Federation to ban high school rugby was a massive blow for Thomas, along with many others.
“It wasn’t expected. It really just came out the blue for all of us,” Thomas told Global News over the phone Friday afternoon. “It was a giant shock.”
Charlotte’s team at West Kings District High School was informed of the cancellation around 1:30 p.m. by the school’s principal.
“It was actually two hours before we were supposed to have a game so that was a bit of a blow to everyone,” she said.
“The worst part was looking around and seeing the shock on everyone’s faces. I don’t think there was a single person on my team that made it back to class with dry eyes.”
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It only took the 11th grader a few minutes until she decided to take the matter into her own hands. She started a Change.org petition calling on the federation to immediately reverse its decision.
“This game is the greatest teacher all of us have ever known,” her petition reads. “We learn to work together, trust each other and we make friendships that last miles and years. The student-athlete body pours sweat, tears and, yes, sometimes blood into the sports we play. And we believe it is in our own interest to decide if we should play or not.
“We sign our forms, we make our commitments and we know what we’re getting into. An incredible sport, with, frankly, fewer injuries than hockey or football, and we love every second of it.”
It didn’t take long for the petition to take off. Charlotte says she noticed the signatures coming in immediately.
“We got 100 signatures in 30 minutes, and I thought that was amazing,” she said. “The community around rugby, especially here in Nova Scotia, it’s amazing and it never failed to impress me.
“I really just wrote with as pure of emotions (as) I had at that time.”
As of 8:30 p.m. Atlantic time, the petition had over 23,000 signatures.
“It honestly feels amazing. It’s not even that my name’s on it — like I’m not really overly enthralled by that. I just love the community that’s coming out from it and the amount of people who are supporting the cause of this and who are speaking out and saying this decision’s made too brashly,” Thomas said.
The teenager hopes the petition does one thing and one thing alone: bring rugby back.
“I think it’s very important for women to be able to play a game where you feel powerful and you feel supported and you feel trusted and you feel like you can do it,” she said. “That’s a trust in yourself and the other women, and it really just builds an amazing trust between team members.”