Rugby Africa’s Unstoppable Donatienne Rasoampamonjy is a Force to be Reckoned with in Madagascar
The regional technical advisor and coach trainer is trailblazing in the name of women in rugby
My physical education and sports teacher actually convinced me to learn it and I realised that I felt more comfortable with rugby
As the second largest island country off the East Coast of Africa, Madagascar is packing with rugby heroine power in the name of Donatienne Rasoampamonjy, a Rugby Africa (www.RugbyAfrique.com) Unstoppable who is making waves in her hometown. Handpicked amongst leading women in rugby on the African continent as part of Rugby Africa’s #Unstoppables, the regional technical advisor and coach trainer is trailblazing in the name of women in rugby.
The 30-year-old has been working tirelessly in driving the game since she traded in the basketball court for the oval ball when she was 17 years old.
“Since my childhood, I was very tall, I was always taller than girls my age. For three years, I focused on basketball, football, and rugby before stopping the first two. My physical education and sports teacher actually convinced me to learn it and I realised that I felt more comfortable with rugby – it was a sport that suited who I am, and the values of solidarity and integrity deeply resonated with me.”
However, it has not been an easy journey for Rasoampamonjy – who four years ago opened a school in her native village of Ambositra, in the island’s central Amoroni region. The club now sees about 30 players participating.
“Coming from a modest background, I ran into financial issues at university. That did not make me give up and I went on to complete my management studies course for rugby. Rugby taught me to persevere and dig deep into myself. If I did not have rugby as my support, I would not have been able to finish my studies.”
Later a national coach noticed her and convinced her to do a coaching internship. She quickly passed her level one and two certificates and was soon fully involved in the World Rugby Get Into Rugby programme along with other educational programmes.
Currently a high school sports teacher and a strength and conditioning coach, Rasoampamonjy said it was difficult in the beginning to bring rugby to the girls and even boys – many of whom support soccer.
“People think that it is dangerous for girls to play rugby. To dispel this myth, we organised festivals to showcase the talent of the girls, and it did not end there. I encouraged young people to practice every Saturday at the pitch and soon establishments on the outskirts wanted me to also teach them rugby. In addition, the physical and sports education teachers and sports coaches in the neighbourhood wanted to get into the Get Into Rugby training.”
Out of her deep passion for the game, Rasoampamonjy continued her recruitment journey at no cost. With much dedication she soon persuaded local authorities to support and contribute to the development and realisation of local matches.
As part of her role to manage all the technical aspects in regional leagues, Rasoampamonjy added that the mission was no longer to transmit knowledge to young players but to support knowledge and validate acquired knowledge.
With 22 regions in Madagascar and with each region having at least one club, the island supports 11 women’s leagues including 14 women’s teams. Of this, 20% of women participate in coaching and referee training. Acknowledging that most have had a little time on the field, Rasoampamonjy said that she was intent on curbing the challenge of teenage pregnancy which distracted young women from getting on the greens and full time into the sport.
“The average age of pregnancy in Madagascar is 22-30 years old, while in the women rugby teams, it’s 16–25-year-olds. Most of the national rugby team players are mums and housewives while a larger remainder of young girls are into soccer. My aim is to plant the oval ball in every public establishment, organise a minimal national tournament and increase the number of women managers, trainers, referees, physical trainers and trained players.”
So, what does the future look like for this rugby high-flyer?
“I want to ensure that there is mutual trust between parents and myself. This can only come through the understanding of the values of rugby. The results are already showing for themselves. My 2021 goal is for the Malagasy 7-a-side national team to qualify for the Olympic Games. The women's XV team will have adequate and appropriate preparation for the next international competitions.”
For more information log onto Donatienne Rasoampamonjy - Rugby Afrique (https://bit.ly/2RzodSA)
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Women’s Ruby in Africa:
On the African continent, women’s rugby has seen tremendous growth. In the last decade it increased from 50 000 female players in 2012, to over 260 000 in 2018 and 350 000 in 2020.
For this tremendous growth to continue, strong leadership in women’s rugby needs to continue, the Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship is one of the tools that will enable this.
Africa will also be well represented when South Africa participates in the next rugby World Cup women in New Zealand in 2022 and Kenya in the Olympic Games in 2021.
About Rugby Africa:
Created in 1986, Rugby Africa, previously the African Confederation of Rugby (Confédération Africaine de Rugby – CAR), is one of the six regional associations composing World Rugby (WorldRugby.org), the international organization responsible for the governing of Rugby Union and Rugby Sevens. Rugby Africa unites all African countries which play rugby union, rugby sevens, and women’s rugby. Rugby Africa organizes the qualifying competition for the Rugby World Cup, and Africa Sevens, a qualifying competition for the Olympic Games. Rugby Africa has 39 members.