Margy has had a significant influence on rugby in the Mid-Atlantic, but you probably never knew her name. After her playing days were over, Margaret Dessypris Thomas, affectionately known as Margy, rose through the administrative ranks of club rugby to become the Chairwoman of the USA Club Rugby National Competitions Committee (NCC). Margy has heard and listened to men and women playing this sport from across the nation in her various roles and did her part to improve and enhance the game, especially for women.
Like many in the USA, Margy didn’t play rugby in high school or college and didn’t consider herself a “sportsperson.” However, on a night out with friends in Virginia, she was approached by a player from James River RFC who said they were starting a women’s team. Margy knew nothing about rugby but decided to take a chance. From that first practice, she was hooked, and it changed her life.
Margy would go on to play for the inaugural James River women’s team in the forwards for 12 years. Along the way, she served on the team board and took on the roles of equipment manager, match secretary, and team vice president. The geographic union took notice and Margy became the Women’s Coordinator of the Virginia Rugby Union.
From there, she graduated to the Club 15s Chairwoman of the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union, then to the Mid-Atlantic Conference Chairwoman of the Competitions Committee. Margy’s drive to rise through the ranks was “wanting a well-organized and communicated competition.” Later on, the drive came from listening to the goals of the clubs she served.
In 2017, Margy was appointed as the Chairwoman of the USA Rugby National Competitions Committee (NCC) for Senior Club Rugby for three years. After USA Rugby’s reorganization, she took a step back to be the Women’s DI East Coordinator and was re-certified as a referee. Since 2020, Margy has been the President of the Referee Society of Virginia.
Margy has interacted with every type of player throughout the country through her multitude of positions.
“It’s about how we speak about rugby and encourage women to step forward to take a chance and put yourself out there,” Margy stated. “Be bold, be brave. We all have rugby, and we’re amazed at what it’s done and given us, how it has empowered us and increased our leadership skills. It’s somehow been this amazing circle of friends, sisterhood, brotherhood, and comradery that you don’t find in many other sports. Having that as the appeal shows that the hard work is worth it. It pays back so much more than you would ever think.”
On the topic of growing the women’s game, her solution is simple. “Put more money into the women’s programs. Showcase it more often. When we’re arguing over dollars for who gets how much funding for one team versus another team, the women’s rugby team tends to perform better than the men with fewer resources. Why is that? Are we just working harder? Is our rugby maturity better? I don’t know what it is. Just an observation.”
As part of the USA Rugby NCC, she was put in a position to influence how the women’s game could develop. Margy was a part of the group that spearheaded the effort to establish the Women’s Gold Cup, a national competition that brought together the best DI women’s clubs from the four geographic regions. This competition increased the exposure for the higher levels of women’s club rugby, and it encouraged lower-level clubs to heighten their level of play to compete in the Gold Cup and other similar competitions.
Margy has made strides in the growth of women’s rugby in different ways.
“As a competition’s coordinator, seeking to grow a league and raise the level of the game. As a referee, ensuring there are referees available for those matches. I have strived for good, open communication and transparency, and I will continue defending and promoting women’s rugby.”
For that young girl or woman just starting, Margy’s advice is to seize the opportunity. “Do it. Have fun and do it. Try it out. It doesn’t matter if you think you are good at it. Anytime you start something new, you aren’t going to be spectacular at it. It’s going to take practice and development. I love rugby because there’s always been some new challenge to master and get a hold of.”
So why rugby and why play? “It’s a different comradery and a different acceptance. In any social group, there are cliques. The general consensus of rugby, especially women’s rugby, is that rugby is for all. I know my own ability to accept people for who they are has grown simply because of what rugby has taught me of many different kinds of people. I don’t see that anywhere else.”