BRUNSWICK – Things have changed since Farrah Douglas last set foot in Brunswick 10 years ago.

Her former Bowdoin College rugby coach, MaryBeth Mathews, still coaches the sport but is now the assistant dean of first-year students.

Dayton Arena on Harpswell Road is gone, replaced by the energy-efficient Watson Arena, built less than a mile from campus.

Women’s rugby became a varsity sport in 2002.

Douglas, a 1999 Bowdoin graduate and former Polar Bears rugby player, returned to the campus earlier this month as a member of the United States women’s national team.

“It’s been amazing,” Douglas said of returning. “I haven’t been back on campus since 2000 and to see all of the changes that have happened, it’s amazing.”

Sunday at Shulman Field, Douglas and the U.S. team, better known as the Women Eagles, played a warmup match against the Northeast Rugby Union Women’s All-Star team.

It was part of a three-week summer residency camp at Bowdoin, where Douglas and her team are training for the 12-team women’s rugby World Cup from Aug. 20 to Sept. 5 in England.

“When I look back, I never thought about having that chance or being where I am now,” said Douglas, who began playing rugby as a freshman at Bowdoin, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and African-American studies.

Douglas, 33, is a forward and one of the 30 players taking part in this week’s residency camp at Bowdoin, where players are living in dormitories and training in the school’s athletic facilities.

“As a team, I think it’s a great opportunity for us all to have the time to learn each other’s styles on the field better, to gain more trust so that when we step on the field, everything we do becomes instinctive and natural to us,” Douglas said. “This has given everyone the opportunity to be together for three weeks, working on everything.”

The residency camp is unique for the women’s national team. The team captain, Ashley English, said players are scattered across the country, simultaneously holding jobs or careers or working on advanced degrees while playing rugby and training at an elite level. For three weeks in Brunswick, the focus is solely on rugby.

“This is the first time the U.S. women’s national team has ever had this opportunity, to have a three-week residency training camp for the World Cup, where we get to spend three weeks together,” said English, a 33-year-old teacher from Oakland, Calif. “We don’t have anything but rugby. We can really focus on preparing on focusing for the World Cup.

“All of us have jobs outside of rugby, we work out on our own and we practice with our local club teams, and we only get together a few times a year, usually for games that we have. We don’t have the luxury of this, of an extended period where we can work out all the kinks and spend a long time preparing.”

During her first two years of postgraduate work at the University of Chicago, Douglas realized she had the opportunity to play at an elite level and began to follow that path.

She coached and trained at Penn State, and recently moved to Hyattsville, Md., where she was training before joining the U.S. Rugby training program at Bowdoin.

“I really focused on training, getting fit and becoming a student of the game,” Douglas said. “This will be my second World Cup. I was a traveling reserve in 2006 and I’m on the traveling squad for this year’s World Cup. It was worth it to be a part of all of this.”

For Douglas, returning to Brunswick is a chance for her to not only show her teammates the area she lived in for four years of college, but also a chance for her to extend her reach to the small but close-knit rugby community in Southern Maine.

“I asked her, ‘when is the last time you were here?’ said Jamie Burke, a forward on the women’s national team and a Ph.D. student in education at the University of New Hampshire.

“She told me it was a year after her senior year of college and that was more than 10 years ago. For her to be able to come back here and showcase the direction that you can go as a college athlete

“We’ve had a few Bowdoin rugby players come out and watch some of our practices and I can only imagine them watching her and going, saying ‘even if this is a small program, the sky is the limit when it comes to your playing aspirations.’ “

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at:

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