As a non-profit organization, our partnerships are an incredibly important part of our overall mission to provide young athletes with the opportunity to become leaders through sport. The US Rugby Foundation supports our efforts by helping to grow grassroots rugby in America. We are lucky to have an outstanding partnership with them and we see their impact in each and every one of our programs. We took some time to interview Brian Vizard, the USRF Executive Director and his granddaughter Mia to ask them about the role of rugby in both of their lives.
Girls Rugby: What does it mean to see your granddaughter playing a sport that means so much to you?
Brian: It’s nice seeing her throwing the ball and running around, but it’s even better when I know she’s having fun out there.
Girls Rugby: Do you think you were a big influence on Mia wanting to play rugby?
Brian: She says so but I don’t think my rugby background played a big role in her decision. I asked her a couple of years ago, “Do you want to give rugby a try?” Her reply at the time was, “Boppa, if I played rugby it would ruin my weekends.” I think the biggest influence for her getting involved in the sport was watching the women play at the Olympics.
Girls Rugby: Why did Mia want to play for Girls Rugby? What inspired her?
Brian: I think watching those women Olympians running and tackling really inspired her. She saw that it wasn’t a sport that was just for boys. As for why Girls Rugby? I think it’s because there were always two Girls Rugby signs near the entrance to her school and we’d see those signs every day. She decided on joining Girls Rugby before the Foundation partnered with them.
Girls Rugby: What values do you think Mia learned while playing for Girls Rugby?
Brian: She learned the basics of rugby but more importantly, she learned about teamwork.
Girls Rugby: Do you think that playing rugby has had a positive impact on Mia’s life off of the pitch? If so, how?
Brian: I do. She has fully committed to the sport. She shows up on time for training and games and has only missed either when she was sick. I have seen her confidence grow too, especially now, playing co-ed tackle with older boys and her being one of just three girls on the team. In her first tackle game, she made a try saving tackle on a boy and the smile on her face when she got to her feet made me smile. I’m not sure if there’s a correlation between rugby and school, but Mia’s most recent progress report was her best one yet.
Girls Rugby: What sets rugby apart from other youth sports?
Brian: I touched on it in my previous answer but I think rugby is great for kids because it forces them to make that commitment if they want to improve. And when they see that improvement, it gives them more confidence. And of course they learn teamwork, discipline, and sportspersonship along the way. And just like adults when we join a new team, they have an instant group of teammates they can now call friends.
Girls Rugby: Do you think more girls should play rugby? If so, why?
Brian: Of course I do! Girls Rugby does a great job in getting more girls to give rugby a try. I think once they take that first step and show up for a training session, they are hooked. And if Mia is a yardstick, it instills all those attributes I just mentioned, especially confidence.
We were also able to sit down with Brian’s granddaughter Mia to ask her about rugby’s impact on her own life and her favorite memories from playing with Girls Rugby San Diego.
Girls Rugby: Why did you want to start playing for Girls Rugby?
Mia: I started playing Girls Rugby because my grandpa was a really great rugby player and my mom and I would watch the women’s rugby Olympic games. Me and my grandpa would go to all sorts of rugby games and that inspired me to play rugby.
Girls Rugby: What do you love the most about playing rugby?
Mia: Pulling flags, scoring tries, and having fun!
Girls Rugby: What is your favorite memory while playing for Girls Rugby?
Mia: Playing with the friends I made and having fun with the coaches. Game days were always fun as the girls from all the teams played together. We also had a special practice when two of the women Olympians came out to play and to talk to us. They also autographed our rugby balls. Our last game day was also family day and that was fun seeing all the parents and brothers and sisters running around with the girls.
Girls Rugby: Did you make any friends while playing rugby?
Mia: Yes, I made a lot of friends from the ones on my team and the ones we played against. A couple of my teammates also go to my school. Plus my best friend Zoey played and I’ve known her my whole life.
Girls Rugby: Who did you look up to for help and advice while playing rugby?
Mia: My grandpa and my parents but mostly my coaches.
Girls Rugby: What did you love about your Girls Rugby coaches? Did you have a favorite coach?
Mia: I loved the coach’s positivity and support. I did not have a favorite coach. I thought they were all amazing.
Girls Rugby: Since Girls Rugby has ended, what kinds of activities are you doing to keep up with your skills?
Mia: I am playing OMBAC Wallabies Under 12s co-ed Rugby. It is really fun. My little brother, Kai, is also playing for OMBAC Under 8s.
Girls Rugby: What has been the biggest challenge for you now that you are playing with and against mostly boys, being one of the younger and more inexperienced players on the team, and playing tackle?
Mia: The biggest challenge is trying to get the boys to stop showing off. I like tackling and playing rugby is really fun.
Girls Rugby: Are you going to continue to play Girls Rugby when it starts back up?
Mia: You bet!