A local Caymanian athlete took a big step forward for Cayman sports recently.
Last month, Schmarrah McCarthy became the first Caymanian athlete to compete for the U19 US women’s national rugby team. Though the team lost, McCarthy was the star of the game scoring the team’s only points.
‘It [scoring for the team] felt like relief because of the score. But I really feel it was a team effort that caused me to score,’ 19 year-old Schmarrah said.
Schmarrah is currently attending Purdue University in Indiana where she is pursuing a degree in Civil Engineering. She was able to play for the US national team based on a recommendation by the head coach.
‘I play [rugby] for Purdue University in the [NCAA] Midwest region. Bryn Chivers, head coach of the Midwest Developmental Camp, picked me out. He said I had talent and size,’ the 5’10, 175lb muscular athlete stated.
According to the US national rugby website, Chivers was very impressed with McCarthy and felt that she was a special player.
‘Schmarrah is an incredibly big, strong, wonderful athlete. There is no doubt that she will go on to play at the next level,’ Chivers had said.
In spite of playing for the US, Schmarrah felt that she saw herself as Caymanian.
‘I was schooled in the US but I was raised in Cayman. When I hear the US national anthem, I pause out of respect. But when the Cayman national anthem comes on I can feel it,’ Schmarrah said, who is the daughter of George and Alliyah McCarthy of George Town.
Schmarrah has long been interested in the sport of rugby. She took time to discuss how she got into the sport.
‘I first heard of rugby while in St. Ignatius. It was mentioned through the school’s electives program. However, I was not allowed to play because of my parents. In December 2005, I first started to play the sport while I was in boarding school, which was at the United World College in Hong Kong.
‘My first team was the DEFA Tigers in [the] sevens [game]. I was approached by girls on the team who offered me to play with them,’ Schmarrah said.
Schmarrah went on to say she chose to play rugby rather than other sports because of her active nature. She said that though she had played basketball at one time in boarding school, rugby gave her the satisfaction she wanted.
According to Schmarrah, the sport has a high level of importance in her life and is essential in her college career.
‘It [rugby] is most definitely important. Rugby gave me an outlet and I feel it structures school life better.’
Rugby’s rough nature tends to lend itself to men and its image as a ‘real man’s game’. However, Schmarrah insisted that women can play the sport.
‘I don’t think the sport is too tough for women. In fact, I think the women have more passion than the men. To me, it is a perfect fit because it is poetic justice [in motion] as there is violence for a reason.’
Admittedly, Schmarrah is no stranger to the bumps and bruises of the sport. Reportedly, she has suffered tendonitis, a bruised bicep and pulled thumb and index finger tendons among other injuries.
Nevertheless, playing rugby is a significant part of her goals for the future.
‘I want to make the World Cup. Also, I intend to come back and work for the National Roads Authority after school is through. They gave me great support and an outlet to practice engineering,’ Schmarrah stated.
Schmarrah is currently on-island and will stay-on until the end of the summer. She intends to remain involved in the sport through various activities.
‘I’ll be playing in the touch league this summer. I also plan to help out with the coaching in the girls league,’ Schmarrah commented.
Eventually, she wants to play in the women’s league on-island. She states that wherever she goes she will always want to play rugby because of the attraction of the rugby lifestyle.
Schmarrah also mentioned her belief that Cayman rugby has a promising future and a great potential for growth in all areas.
‘The future of rugby in Cayman is really good. There are lots of opportunities for growth, especially for the females. It is good to see the sport building from the high school level right on up. Really good rugby countries cultivate rugby from an early age. To see interest and opportunity for growth is the most you can ask for now.’
Schmarrah also took time to thank the main people that helped with her preparation and conditioning.
‘I would like to thank Mr. Rex Watler at Powerhouse Gym for providing me the use of such a great facility. I would also like to thank Mr. Michael Salmon of Powerhouse Gym as he helped me get ready and get in shape before school started.’