Northern Arizona University (NAU) is home to one of the most original mascots in collegiate sports: the Lumberjack.
However, not all athletic teams and clubs at NAU use the school’s nickname. The men’s rugby team, for instance, goes by the Landsharks; the hockey club is called the Ice Jacks; and even the quidditch club bears a unique name: the Narwhals.
Perhaps the most original and interesting nickname of any club of campus belongs to the women’s rugby club, which calls themselves the Timberdoodles.
For those who do not know, a timberdoodle is another name for the American Woodcock.
“The name is a dumb story, but it’s true,” as told by club founder “Boo Boo” on the Timberdoodles’ website. “I was writing a paper, looking up a word in the dictionary and came across the word Timberdoodle. When I found it is the American Woodcock, I thought about how cool that was, especially with the hidden name. The girls voted with some other names, but Timberdoodles was selected.”
Legend has it, the origin of the Timberdoodle name was the result of a losing bet with a Landshark player. According to the club’s website, the team originally selected the name Timberdoodle, but subsequently went through a series of name changes like the Lady Sharks and the Piranhas. In 2002, the fateful bet was made, which gave the club back its original name, which has not changed since.
The Timberdoodles have been a club at NAU since 1991, and were founded by a player from the men’s rugby club. Because of the club status, they finance their season by holding fundraisers and having everyone pay dues so they can travel to play.
“We started talking, and [Nancy Purdin] asked why we didn’t have a women’s club,” Boo Boo said.“It just so happened that a couple of girls had approached me that month who had played but . . . [had] no team . . . and I was busy. I told Nancy I’d put together 10 girls to have an exhibition match the following 10s. [I] did some school advertising in the fall and ended up with about a dozen freshman.”
Club president, sophomore Jenna Rodriguez, says there are benefits to running things by themselves.
“We set everything up — the refs, fields, team travel and everything, so if anything I think it helps us stay organized,” Rodriguez said.
Like most club sports teams, the Timberdoodles face a multitude of challenges, ranging from a weekly lack of continuity in team size to the overwhelming number of injuries they have faced due to their lack of experience.
Head coach Wally Nolan acknowledged these problems, but went on to say his team is off to a good start.
“For the experience that most of the players have, they’re doing very well,” Nolan said. “When they play teams of similar experience and similar capabilities, they win. Then they’ll go play in other tournaments against teams with a lot more experience and they’ll get beat up a little bit, but they’re doing very well.”
Rodriguez added having to re-teach new players every year also presents problems.
“With new freshman, we have to learn and teach again,” Rodriquez said. “It’s great to have people out and play and love the game as much as [they] do, but it’s also great to have people out there who have been playing for a few years.”
Coach Nolan added, “Most people don’t play rugby until they get into college.”
The 2012 squad is off to a great start this semester, winning all three of their Tens Tournament matches for the first time since 2002. The Timberdoodles also fared well at the High Dirt Tournament in New Mexico a few weekends ago, albeit with only 11 players.
Sophomore international affairs major and second-year rugby player Madison Ashley Santana said this team is one of the better teams they have had in a few years.
“Considering the fact that we only had about half a team, we did really well,” Santana said. “We had roughly eleven, so because of injuries and stuff we had to ask more players to play with us.”
She went on to add having to ask around for replacement players or subs is a normal thing in rugby, especially with the number of injuries that occur all the time. Also, because of the number of college students on the team, practice and conditioning usually take a backseat to schoolwork due to how busy they are.
In addition to the first few tournaments, the Timberdoodles have a number of upcoming matches and tournaments for the rest of the semester, including a round robin tournament in New Mexico and several other away matches, until their union season starts.
They are a part of the Arizona Rugby Union, and play clubs from not only from Arizona, but also from New Mexico, Nevada and Utah; and they occasionally play collegiate teams like ASU or UA.