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Freedom Prep Academy rugby program helps girls overcome obstacles

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It's playing in states across the country. It's a Nike ad called "Dream Crazier" that's urging women to get involved in sports.

"Rugby is a great sport, and it's for any and all shapes," student Serena Jones said.

For one group of girls who are students at Freedom Prep Academy, that sport is rugby. The game of rugby has pushed these girls mentally, physically and academically.

"They think, like, with sports you can get out," student Shaniah Jones said.  "Sports is your only way out. You can only do sports, because most children don't have the academic success."

For her teammate, Carlicia Beam it's more than just a game. It's a bonding experience like no other she's had before. "It's like, we all are seniors now, and we're, like, in  it together. It's like I don't want to leave this bond back in high school. There's so much love between all of us."

Beam says she's always struggled with her weight. She could never find a sport that she was physically good at, until she tried this one. "This has helped me learn to love the skin I'm in."

Her skin is the same as most of her teammates. All of the players are young women of color.

The girls haven't lost since 2017. They're currently pursuing their third state championship.

The program, Memphis Inner City Rugby, also known as MICR, has only been operating for these young women since 2015 with a goal to push students in low-resource communities.

These 25 girls are setting the bar high as the first at their school to play.

After Nike filmed its ad. The production crew invited senior Niya Bailey, who enjoys film, to help them shoot a Nike production.

"She called me up and she was just like, 'We want to fly you out to Alabama to help us with the film. And it was my first, like, it was amazing," Bailey said.

It's opportunities like this that MICR and the Freedom Prep Girls want to show are made possible by their program and dedication. The MICR coaches and staff do more with students than rugby. They also play a big role in their personal lives.

The Freedom Prep girls say they would like to continue playing the sport in college. Some have even been offered rugby scholarships.

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