athletes · fashion

Prom dress rugby and lingerie football: what’s the difference?

I love prom dress rugby. It makes me grin.

I like rugby more than football. I have a teenage son who plays both sports, rugby at the provincial level and football on his high school team. Over the years of watching both games I’ve developed a pretty strong preference for rugby. Now that might just be my British heritage, combined with a small streak of anti-Americanism, showing but rugby seems to me to be a much more athletic game.

I also love prom dress rugby and hate lingerie football. The picture above is from UCLA’s prom dress rugby match, a fundraiser for breast cancer research. Sorry, no photos of lingerie football here. This is our sandbox. But there’s loads of lingerie football photos everywhere else on the web.

It seems to me there are important differences between the two sports though beyond my simple preference for rugby over football. (Rugby is the sport I would have played if I’d been an athletic child and if rugby for girls had been an option in the 70s and 80s. You can read about my regrets here.) Both prom dress rugby and lingerie football play on the clash between traditional notions of feminine beauty and and the rugged, traditionally masculine nature of the sports involved. It’s the juxtaposition of frills and lace and tackling that makes me grin. Both get humour value from, and take pleasure in, playing the game in non-traditional attire.

But here it seems to me the similarities end.

What are the differences?

  • Most importantly girls and women play rugby in regular uniforms 99% of the time. Prom dress rugby is annual event, a one-off thing, put on in the spirit of fun.
  • Prom dress rugby events are usually fun events put on by the teams as fundraisers for charity and to draw attention to the non-prom dress version of the sport. Of course, the teams themselves belong to amateur or community leagues or more commonly to high school and university athletic associations. Lingerie Football is a for profit sport. That by itself doesn’t make it better or worse but it does make it different.
  • There’s a punky DIY ethos to prom dress rugby. As a friend said, it reminds him of the other tough women of amateur athletics, roller derby girls. Some women play in hideous bridesmaid dresses they’ve been required to wear, others in their own actual prom dresses, and many scout thrift stores for prom dresses–the flouncier the better–worth trashing.

Lingerie Football used to be just an American thing, but like Hooters, it’s made its way North. Toronto even has its own Lingerie Football League team, the Toronto Triumphs.

Arguably as the game goes international, with Canadian and Australian leagues, its tone is changing too. There’s even been a re-branding. In a press release issued last Wednesday the owner and founder of the LFL Mitchell Mortaza announced its new name, the Legends Football League rather than Lingerie. So still the LFL.

“While the Lingerie Football League name has drawn great media attention allowing us to showcase the sport to millions, we have now reached a crossroad of gaining credibility as a sport or continuing to be viewed as a gimmick,” writes Mortaza in the press release.

And the press release promises sports attire rather than lingerie although frankly the performance attire looks like they’ve upgraded to skimpy beach wear instead of bedroom attire. No more garters, no more chokers, and no more strappy lacy things. Think Baywatch, rather than Victoria’s Secrets.

You can watch the press conference and see the new bikinis–I mean football uniforms–here.

I also feel the need to say something about my preferences since feminists are so often misunderstood on this front. I’m a feminist but I’m also a liberal. I’m not in favor of censoring lingerie football or condemning those who enjoy playing or watching. In matters of what attracts you, what makes you grin, I’m an unrepentant liberal. What I’m doing here is explaining why I like prom dress rugby much more than I like lingerie football. It’s an invitation to see the world from my point of view, rather than an argument against yours.

There’s a great photo of prom dress rugby in Sports Illustrated Photos.

I love their tag: “We kid you not. Feast yer peepers on the Next Big Thing. Lingerie football is so, like, yesterday….”

I hope Sports Illustrated is right.
team sports

Indoor Soccer, Team Sports, and Childhood Regrets

It’s November and I’m gearing up for the start of the indoor soccer season. I’ve been playing recreational soccer for a few years now with women from my neighbourhood. The success of women’s soccer is phenomenal.  Many of us didn’t ever play as children and we learned the rules by watching our kids compete. Now it’s our turn!

We play both the indoor and the outdoor sorts of soccer and while I love being outside, I prefer the indoor game.

Our league plays indoor soccer in hockey stadium with astro turf over where the ice would usually be. It’s a short field–which I like–and that makes for much faster play. Also, for extra fun, you had use the boards for rebounding the ball. And in indoor soccer, you can switch players without a pause in play and so when things get really busy we sometimes play 5 min, 5 min off.

I love playing on a team and I wish I’d learned about this earlier in life. There isn’t a lot in my past that I regret. I’m just not the “regretting” sort. Mostly I treasure the valuable stuff, try to forget the bad, and if there’s lessons to be learned from mistakes I’ve made I try to learn them and move on.

But as an adult-onset athlete I do occasionally regret that I didn’t discover my athletic self earlier in life. When I was growing up there was still the split between “smart” and “sporty.” You could be one or the other, but rarely both. I was definitely the bookish sort. I loathed gym class, team sports, and especially the Canada Fitness Test (on which I scored Bronze every single year.)

And I didn’t play team sports at all. For a short while I took figure skating classes (good brand new Canadian that I was) and I remember trying T-ball as a child. I did some swimming classes along the way but I think that might have been it other than casual outdoor play, walking to school, swimming in oceans and lakes, and bike riding with friends. Not bad, but not particularly athletic either.

I had also an idea that I was a chubby child. I joined Weight Watchers for the first time in Grade 6. I still remember how much I weighed when I stepped on their scale, 133 lbs. At the time I was the tallest kid in my class and I don’t think I was that much shorter than I am now. My parents meant well. They wanted me to avoid the lifetime of weight gain, and dieting, that’s plagued other family members. But now I look at back at Grade 6 me and think there was nothing that a little sports plus growing a few inches wouldn’t cure.

Sometimes now though I watch teenage girls playing rugby and wish that were me. I’ve ridden with several groups of women cyclists and I really loved racing as a team. There’s a community and a camaraderie in team sports that I didn’t know existed. I love that each person has strengths and weaknesses and working as a team means you find a way to contribute the thing that you do best.

I do wish that schools did a better job of encouraging children who are not particularly athletic to be active (yoga, dance etc). I wish we did a better job with individual, rather than team, sports for children. I’m thinking here of running, biking, swimming, etc. With girls, I’m glad our idea of appropriate sports is getting more broad. There wasn’t rugby for girls when I was growing up. But I also wish in my own case that I’d discovered how much I love team sports when I was younger. I might have avoided a lifetime of dieting! But more importantly, there was a good that my life could have contained that it didn’t.

I’m making up for lost time now!