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Chris Henry's Saving Grace

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At the start of 1986, Chris ‘Baby’ Henry didn’t know rugby would eventually save her life. In fact, she barely knew what rugby was.  But, that changed when her college roommate told her to come her rugby match.

Mid-game, a player was injured, and Chris heard her roommate shout, “Hey, Baby, go get my extra cleats out of my car. Put ‘em on, we need you to hook.” The Penn State players quickly taught Chris what she needed to know and sent her on the field.

“I was bitten by the rugby bug right after that match,” said Chris. From then on, Chris wanted to learn more. Rugby was running through her veins, and she attended every practice and match until her graduation in 1992.

She landed a full time job and exchanged the mountains of State College for the streets of Delaware shortly after graduation. However, it wasn’t until a horrible injury in 2001 left her bedridden for the next 14 years that Chris discovered rugby would be her saving grace.

“Rugby actually saved my life,” she said. “On Facebook, an old rugger like me said ‘Hey, would you be interested in coaching a men’s team and possibly starting a women’s team?’ I’m like, ‘I never thought of it, but I’d be very interested.’”

So, in early 2015, she recalled her own Penn State Rugby training and practiced the exercises on her own so she was prepared to coach her new team. From there, more coaching opportunities appeared, and now she leads the Delaware Diamonds, a girl’s team that she founded just last year.

By recruiting players from high schools across Delaware, Chris hopes to spread her passion for rugby and encourage her players to reach for the stars.

“These girls are committed. These girls come from places where they would not have a chance to go to college and they want to,” she said. “Now, they’re playing to get scholarships, to get noticed and to go on to college. That’s my dream for these girls. That’s why I started this.”

Although Delaware is hundreds of miles away from State College, Chris’ Penn State rugby roots hold strong, and she is overjoyed by the team’s accomplishments.

“I’m elated,” she said. “I am so proud of how far they’ve come and how far they can still go. I have posters of these girls hanging up to be an inspiration to [the Delaware Diamonds] when they come over to do a workout in my yard.”

If she’s not in State College watching a Penn State match, she is watching the match on TV, supporting the team wherever she goes.

“If we don’t support our rugby program it will start to fail. We must support them in anyway possible whether it’s a money donation or even equipment. It’s something that will keep the program going and growing.”

She wants to bring her team to Penn State one day so she can point to the Penn State team and tell her girls, “That’s where I started. Right there.” And maybe one day, her players can eventually wear Blue and White, too.