Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans, and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. Girls Rugby is celebrating African American women within the sport of rugby who have and continue to raise the bar, both on and off the pitch, setting the stage for the next generation. We asked some of these remarkable women a series of questions related to the value and impact of sports on their lives, and how African Americans are represented in the game of rugby. Thank you to Naya, Kris, Danita, Jazamine, Farrah and Jordan for being so open and sharing some of your journey with us.
Former cheerleader, soccer player, and track and field athlete to current USA Rugby 15s and 7s Rugby player.
How have sports impacted your life? Sports has taught me discipline, self-motivation, independence, patience, teamwork, and has made me a very competitive and strong person. Sports have touched every single aspect of my life in a positive manner. It has put me through some rough obstacles but also brought me out stronger than ever before. Sports made me confident in everything I do. If it weren’t for sports l, I wouldn’t be where and who I am today.
How do you feel African Americans are represented in the game of rugby for girls and what do you hope to see in the future? At the moment, the representation is pretty small for African American female rugby players, but the impact is huge! Some of the best rugby players in the world right now are female African Americans. Having that be what young African American girl ruggers have to look up to is amazing. It’s only going to get bigger and better! I truly believe that. The African American women playing for the USA women’s rugby team right now are amazing in so many aspects, rugby, academics, personality, charity, the list goes on.
How do you see your role in inspiring the next generation? I want to show how beautiful and strong women ruggers are mentally and physically. I want to inspire the next generation to give back to others, have 100% confidence in themselves and their ability, and to know that anything truly is possible as long as you have the desire to work for it. I want to give people hope that they can be their true selves no matter who is around and watching. That’s very important to me. Sometimes when you are put in the spotlight, you feel like you have to be what you think that person or the world will like and accept. I say, NO! Be who you are, regardless. The right people will love you and be inspired by you.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from playing sports? Everything in life happens for a reason. Trust that reason and keep it pushing.
Former basketball, cheerleading, and track & field standout to current roller-skater, knockout player, and USA rugby 7s athlete.
How have sports impacted your life? Playing sports has taught me lessons in relating to and communicating with others. It’s also helped me develop how I set goals and the mental skills required to achieve them. Specifically, with rugby, it’s allowed me to travel the world and experience different cultures. I’m pretty comfortable traveling to many places around the globe now, and I’ve been able to experience so many things that have made me a more open-minded person.
What value in sports is most important to you, and why? The most important value to me in sports is service. I think we should all work to make the world a better place in our own way. Sports provide great opportunities and tools to connect with people and help out in whatever area we’re passionate about. I think that’s what makes sports important and not just a game.
How do you feel African Americans are represented in the game of rugby for girls and what do you hope to see in the future? African Americans are currently underrepresented in rugby, and I would love for more of us to pick up a rugby ball. I hope more African Americans see those of us currently playing the game and think of rugby as a sport for them.
How do you see your role in inspiring the next generation? I hope that by playing, young African American kids see me and realize that rugby can be a sport for them. I try to make decisions each day so that I can be a positive role model. I think my role off the field is just as important as on the field, so I try to volunteer and share my story with as many kids as possible. I’ve chosen to take a path in sports, but my ultimate goal is to inspire the next generation to be great in any path they choose.
Board President of the Women’s Rugby Coaches & Referees Association, and an alumna of Clemson.
How have sports impacted your life? Team sports (and rugby in particular) broadened my community, family, and sense of self while giving me a safe place to build confidence and important life skills. The things that the rugby community prides itself on – fair play, teamwork, never giving up, sportsmanship, accountability, to name a few – are characteristics that translate into great work and relationship skills.
What value in sports is most important to you, and why? I love the confidence that sports build in girls and women. It gives a great canvas of strong and successful role models who are capable of not just surviving but thriving.
How do you feel African Americans are represented in the game of rugby for girls and what do you hope to see in the future? African American women who play rugby tend to be excellent athletes who have played other sports and excel in rugby. There aren’t enough in the sport and certainly aren’t represented in leadership positions in our game.
How do you see your role in inspiring the next generation? The first step is being visible. It is hard to fight for or aspire to something that you can’t imagine or have never seen. The next is to make sure that when I’m in a room or at a table that I’m advocating for people who can’t be but need a voice. Finally, when there is a crack or door opened, pulling others through with me.
Former basketball star who now has found a love and passion for rugby.
What value in sports is most important to you, and why? Hard Work. If you don’t put consistent effort behind something, it will be very hard to be great at it.
How do you see your role in inspiring the next generation? I hope that by being someone who had no idea about the sport [rugby] just three years ago, to be where I am today, shows that skill and talent are very important, but that hard work and dedication will take you even further in life.
Former jazz and ballet dancer, volleyball, soccer, basketball, cross country, and track and field athlete to USA Rugby player and now, collegiate NCAA coach.
How have sports impacted your life? Sports have taught me many life lessons over the years. I think the most important ones I continue to benefit from are self-love and self-care. I learned to exist with confidence that my body was both beautiful and powerful. I learned persistence, mental toughness, how to goal-set, and effectively manage my time. I learned to look a challenge in the face and smile as I took it on. Sports gave me the confidence to be unapologetically myself.
What is your relationship to rugby? This is often a tough question to truly articulate. Rugby has given me so much. It provided me the ability to see and love myself, and amazing role models in my coaches and teammates. I have traveled the world and continue to do so. It represents my connection to wearing a U.S. jersey, that journey which has continued to propel me forward not just as a USA Eagle but as a high-level coach. I look to give back to the game as often as I can outside of my various coaching roles. In my current role as an NCAA coach, I am working hard to increase the diversity of the game through my program. I am recruiting internationals, and I have expanded my coaching skills by seeking development beyond the United States borders in Europe, South Africa, and New Zealand. My relationship with rugby is organic and still developing and growing as both myself, and the game, continues to evolve.
Former basketball, volleyball, and track and field athlete to current USA Rugby 15s and 7s player.
What value in sports is most important to you, and why? Sports teach you how to dream. Not only do sports teach you how to dream, but they allow you to develop the work ethic, persistence, and resilience to fight for that dream.
How do you feel African Americans are represented in the game of rugby for girls and what do you hope to see in the future? I think the African American athletes we have represent the sport amazingly. They demonstrate how powerful, dominant, and quick African Americans can be. In the future, I hope that we can inspire young African American girls to dream big, never hold back, and love the amazing, powerful bodies that God created.
How do you see your role in inspiring the next generation? I hope that I am able to encourage and inspire young girls to fight for their passions and recognize how powerful and beautiful our bodies are.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from playing sports? The most important thing I’ve learned from sports is to believe in myself and love myself. I am a strong, beautiful woman, and no matter what I achieve/or don’t achieve, no one will be able to take that from me. I love myself, and no one can convince me otherwise.
Girls Rugby is dedicated to removing the barriers of entry to sport for girls and fostering an environment that is inclusive of all abilities and backgrounds. To learn more about Girls Rugby and how to get involved, click here.