The women of rugby are in a class by themselves. They are strong. They are powerful. They are driven. And every one of them has a story. Here are a few we had the good fortune of interviewing a few we admire.
Phaidra Knight is one of the most highly-decorated players in the history of the sport, earning World Rugby Hall of Fame honors in 2017. Born and raised in rural Georgia , Knight credits rugby for helping to change her life. USA Rugby’s Player of the Decade in 2010 knows how important the game was in her life.
“It’s partly attributable to who I am. I evolved as a human being through rugby. It gave me a chance to express my emotions – anger, aggression. And it allowed me to express them in a disciplined way.”
Knight is using the platform rugby has given her for not only self-improvement but as a way to change the game and how it’s perceived. Knight has worked as an analyst for NBC Sports and is relentless in trying to advance the sport.
“My goal as a media personality, ambassador and former player is to create more opportunities now and down the road, so we can continue to evolve”
Jessica Martinez works at NASA and played rugby at Kansas State, establishing herself as a solid all-around player. Rugby is still a big part of her life as she competes for the Bay Area rugby club in Houston.
“It’s physically challenging. I really enjoy the contact. I enjoy the fact that you have to have multiple skill sets – strength, speed, agility. There are so many different positions for everybody. No matter what shape you’re in – and the shape you are.”
While it might not seem logical to the average rugby fan, Martinez sees a lot of similarities between her sport and her job at NASA.
“You can’t do it by yourself, you have to work together and communicate with the team and translate to anything you do. You have to work for the common goal.”
Kristen Clardy, a longtime rugby player who now coaches at a Washington D.C-area high school, once traveled to England on a Premiership Rugby scholarship to learn more about the game.
“It was wonderful to see what they’re doing in a different country. I’m hoping to help develop my players so they can continue to play for clubs and universities at the highest level.”
Coaching an upstart program at Anacostia High School, Clardy faces her share of challenges, but getting students interested in the sport is not one of them.
“For me it was really easy to sell to them. You get to tackle, be physical. You get to hit people but you have to think, learn how to process and be a team player.”
The future of women’s rugby is in great hands with special people like these leading the way and helping a generation of girls understand what a great sport it is.