One of Nicki Button’s greatest wishes is to play rugby — on Mars.
By day, Button, 25, is a graduate student investigating the geology of Mars at LSU. But in the late afternoons and on weekends, Button is president of the Baton Rouge Women’s Rugby Football Club and vice president of Louisiana Lagniappe, a club of players from both Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Button is starting her third year with the Baton Rouge Women’s Rugby Football club, which has about 15 players and has been around for about a decade.
And the mental and physical skills of rugby, Button says, could make her a good candidate for a little playing time on the fourth planet from the sun.
“I like to think of (going) fearless into the unknown,” she says. “I think it’d be awesome to go to Mars someday. Rugby makes you tough — maybe it’ll make me tough enough to one day go to Mars. … I would take my rugby ball to Mars.”
Button started playing the game at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she completed her undergraduate degree. She then went to South Carolina to begin her graduate work, and, a year later, moved to Baton Rouge to continue her studies.
Team members, like Button, have careers and interests outside of rugby. On the squad is a chemist and a player who works in human resources, and the coach runs his own company.
Rugby, says Button, offers players an escape from work and school.
Anyone, no matter their shape or age, can play the sport, she says, and the club is willing to teach newcomers the basics.
“We just played a game against a 49-year-old,” Button says, “so you can play at any age.”
In Button’s second season in Louisiana, a women’s rugby team was started at LSU to widen the age demographic of players. Members of the Baton Rouge team served as coaches to get the team up and running.
“Now we have two teams that support each other, and when those girls graduate, they can come and play for us,” Button says.
The Baton Rouge team sustains itself through a mix of dues paid by team members and fundraisers. Button says the team also would like to get sponsors.
The club plays about four games each season and participates in tournaments throughout the season.
And, she says, some people do get hurt.
But, she adds, there are far fewer injuries than in football, where opponents face each other head-on. In rugby, she says, there are other ways of approaching players with your head cocked to the side — a move called cheek to cheek — which defends against head trauma.
“You’re subconsciously falling in a way that’s protecting you and the other person,” Button says.
To learn more about the women’s rugby club, visit brwomensrugby.org.