In the Scrum

By Jen A. Miller

Annemarie Farrell, assistant professor of sport management and media, came to Ithaca College to teach. Her other job on campus is head coach of the men’s rugby club team, a position she’s had since 2008. Last spring the team was undefeated and came in fourth at the national championship for Division III club teams.

Farrell played rugby herself in college and had coached the women’s team for Ohio State, where she earned her doctorate. When an Ithaca College student approached her to discuss a coaching position with the Ithaca men’s team, she didn’t immediately think of herself. While men coach women at almost every sporting level, female coaches for men’s teams are still rare.

“I started talking about men in the area who may be interested,” she says and was surprised to find that the student meant her. “Everything that I knew about men’s rugby and the culture of men’s rugby — I didn’t think it was going to work.”

There are only five female coaches of men’s college rugby teams in the United States. Farrell told the student that he needed to go talk to the team about the possibility of a female coach.

“They had a meeting and didn’t see why gender would be an issue,” she says.

And it hasn’t been an issue. At all. “It’s a testament to the kinds of students we have here at Ithaca and the changing view of how men see women in sport,” says Farrell.

“It’s not unusual now for a high school female to be a three-sport athlete. Title IX opened such incredible doors at the high school and college level that now the cool kids in school can be the female athletes,” she says. “I think there’s been a change in culture there. Maybe we’re going to see it more on the sidelines.”

She also gives credit to the Ithaca community and to the kinds of students who choose to study here. “They care more about the quality of the person with the whistle than their gender,” she says. “What athletes are looking for is someone who is knowledgeable and who can lead them to success, and someone who cares about them,” she says. 

Watch a video of Annemarie Farrell and the IC rugby team below.