If you asked any of the current Women’s Eagles when they were kids what they wanted to be when they grew up, many of them might have said an athlete, but chances are they did not imagine themselves playing rugby.
Ice hockey, basketball, volleyball, and football are only a handful of the sports the Eagles played in high school and many of them in college before finding rugby.
Hard-hitting full-back Meya Bizer grew up in Texas participating in any sport she could convince her parents to let her play. At only 21 years of age, Bizer already has 15 years of soccer under her belt, played lacrosse for six years, competed in pole vault for her high school track team, and earned a scholarship to the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas, as a kicker for the football team. Bizer started playing rugby in 2009 and credits her success on the pitch to her athletic history.
“I think having a diverse background in sports really benefits me,” Bizer explained. “Football helped my with my confidence in the contact work, lacrosse helped with my footwork, and soccer helped with my kicking.”
Rugby has been found to be the perfect fit for anyone athletic. Elite rugby players have the speed of a track star, finesse of a soccer player, coordination of a basketball player, and strength of a football player.
Eagle Carmen Farmer is a perfect example, as she was a three-sport athlete in high school – excelling in basketball, volleyball, and softball. Farmer continued her athletic career at the collegiate level, earning the spot of captain on the Virginia Tech softball team.
It was not until 2012 that Farmer found herself searching the USA Rugby website looking for another way to stay fit and stumbled upon a local rugby team in Annapolis, Maryland. As a lifelong athlete it was no surprise that rugby came naturally to Farmer.
Only two years after discovering the sport, Farmer will be representing the U.S.A. in the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup next month.
“In general, being exposed to the high level of strength and conditioning training I received as a collegiate athlete also helped to prepare me for the overall training necessary to compete in rugby at this level,” she said.
While coming from a variety of athletic backgrounds, the Eagles agree that rugby is unlike any other sport they have played.
Fly-half Sadie Anderson, a former soccer and football player, explained: “The culture in rugby is very unique and powerful. It's the reason I fell in love with the sport. The acceptance, support, and belief in each individual on the team creates a bond that goes beyond the field and lasts throughout one’s lifetime.”
Most players of the game can attest to the high levels of camaraderie that are developed on a rugby team and also with the opposing team.
“I think there is a bit of a warrior spirit in that you have a high level of respect for your opponent and that shows in the post-match traditions,” Flanker Shaina Turley said.
Participating in volleyball, basketball, and soccer in high school, Turley discovered rugby while studying abroad in Cork, Ireland, and started in her first match only three days later.
Youth programs are on the rise around the nation. Rookie Rugby is a youth flag rugby program and Try On Rugby is focused on growing the number of girls participating in rugby. Youth programs were not established when current Eagles players were children, so many of them discovered rugby through friends, curiosity, a longing to play a team sport again, or even as a dare.
To join the Eagles, it is not required to have played the sport for years, or even days. USA Rugby is searching for both players who are current rugby players as well as cross-over athletes who would be new to the sport of rugby. So remember that little kid who wanted to represent their country on the field someday? It is never too late; just try on rugby.