BOULDER, Colo. – A Women's Eagle recently earned a new title off of the field in California. Tara Flanagan, who played for the 1991 Women's Rugby World Cup-winning Eagles, won election to the vacant seat on the Alameda County Superior Court bench earlier this year.
Flanagan, a former Los Angeles prosecutor with her own law practice in Oakland, was previously a Deputy District Attorney and served as an Alameda County Superior Court Temporary Judge from 2006 until her recent appointment. Surrounded by friends, colleagues, teammates, and coaches, she was sworn in to the Alameda County Superior Court on January 10.
"I think playing rugby, especially at the national and international level, prepared me well for being a lawyer – and now a judge," Flanagan said. "First, as a Judge, you have to understand that court is for the community, and all different members of the community, with broad and diverse backgrounds, come to court."
Flanagan was also part of the Women's Eagles 1994 Rugby World Cup team, which finished second to England. She believes her rugby career and the success of her team from the inception of the Women's Rugby World Cup helped grow rugby for young girls and women.
"Before 1991, there wasn't a World Cup for women to compete in," she said. "So without high level matches or tournaments, or a sport with World Cup or Olympic status, eventually you are going to lose the highest-caliber athletes to other sports that have World Cups or Olympic competition.
"Those of us who competed on those teams came back home and took on greater leadership roles in the rugby community, in rugby administration, took on more coaching and head coaching duties at the club, select side, and national team levels, and that helped further organize and elevate women's rugby in this country."
Included among Flanagan's teammates from 1991-94 is Kathy Flores, who became the Women's Eagles head coach. Candi Orsini and Krista McFarren were her assistants and also played alongside Flanagan in the 1991 Women's Rugby World Cup. Tam Breckenridge, another teammate, is currently the Associate Collegiate Director at USA Rugby.
"Those of us who know Tara fully believe that this is just the next stepping stone in her life," Breckenridge said. "She is on track to go much further."
"Tam, who locked with me in the 1991 World Cup, spoke at my induction ceremony," Flanagan said. "It was an honor to have her there."
Kevin O'Brien, head coach of the 1991 World Cup team, also made the trip to Oakland, Calif., for the Judicial Induction Ceremony.
"His knowledge and passion for the game were invaluable," Flanagan recalled. "We had great athletes, but you don't win a World Cup by just having great athletes. You win because your coach inspires, molds, and draws out the excellence in you – expects the excellence – and helps you win.
"As I have made my way in life and in the law, I do realize the enormity of what winning a World Cup really means. Few circumstances in life afford the opportunity for anyone or any group to be able to say they are the 'best.' Mostly, in business and law, it is a matter of opinion. But for the 1991 World Cup Champion Eagles, we were the best in the world; and I know we all carry that with us and treasure it."
Women's rugby has grown since 1991. The Women's Eagles Sevens team recently finished second at the second round of the inaugural IRB Women's Sevens World Series in Houston, Texas, and the Women's Eagles 15s finished fifth at the 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup.
As an Olympic sport for the 2016 Games, rugby sevens – and rugby in general - is gaining more and more traction in America, and Flanagan is one of the country's pioneers.
"Being an Eagle means everything to me and I am very proud of what we accomplished together," she said. "Rugby made me a better lawyer, a more well-rounded person, and will help make me the best Judge I can be.
"I am honored to represent the Eagles even today, as a Superior Court Judge in the State of California."