A perennial Team USA Eagle, Phaidra Knight is one of the most recognized names in women’s rugby. Her home club is the New York Rugby Club. Today, she chats with Team USA star Alison Price, who takes time out despite her crazed schedule.
PK: AP, thanks so much for taking the time to share some of you with us!
AP: Thank you!
PK: You are currently a New Yorker, but where did you grow up?
AP: I grew up in Lander, Wyoming. That is in the West, not the Midwest, New Yorkers.
PK: Was it just you or did you have siblings?
AP: I have one older sister.
PK: Were you born the awesome rugby player that you are or did you evolve into that through other sports?
AP: I never even touched a rugby ball until I was 21. I grew up playing soccer, skiing and running. I started playing soccer when I was 5 years old and played all the way through college. I could barely catch a rugby ball when I first started because I mainly played sports with my feet.
PK: So when did you start playing rugby? What was your first position?
AP: I started playing rugby when I lived in Kansas City right after I graduated from college. I started at fullback because of the kicking skills I carried over from soccer, but then I moved in to flanker after my first season.
PK: When did you debut with the USA team?
AP: I debuted at Hong Kong 7s in 2004 coached by Emil Signes and Al Caravelli. It was such a great experience for me, but it also left me wanting more. We didn’t perform that well overall as a team, despite the fact that the team consisted of such great players. After that I was hooked on 7s and I knew I had to go back to Hong Kong and accomplish more with my teammates.
PK: How did you balance the life as a successful salesperson and an elite, professional rugby player?
AP: That was certainly a challenge. As you know, being a successful rugby player has to be a way of life, so it wasn’t just the extra vacation time needed for tours, it was also the daily process of training and getting proper nutrition. I struggled at times, but I just had to find a way to make it work by prioritizing and working efficiently. Luckily, I had very understanding and supportive family, loved ones and boss. There wasn’t any time for much other than rugby and work in my life.
PK: World Cup 2009. The journey to Dubai. Was it one of the most challenging times in your life? If so, how?
AP: It was a very challenging time, but also one of the best and most exciting. There was pressure on all of us to consistently maintain a certain level of performance, so it was stressful at times, but that is also what drives me to compete. I feel lucky to have gotten to experience it all. I feel lucky and honored to have shared the experience with my amazing teammates in Dubai and all those involved in the whole journey.
PK: Directing our attention to more “serious” matters, just recently the USA Rugby Women’s Collegiate Strategic Committee issued a letter to the USA Rugby Board of Directors, Nigel Melville, and the NCAA Committee citing significant disparities in the funding of their men’s and women’s programs. As we both know first hand, men’s high performance programs receive (and always have) significantly more financial support than women’s high performance programs. AP, plain and simple, how does that make you feel?
AP: I feel like I was given many financial opportunities in the last few years of my career (especially compared to the beginning), but those were largely due to fundraising by the coaching staff, managers and team. I do wish that the women’s program got the same amount of financial support as the men’s program. That would take some strain off the female athletes and allow them to focus on rugby and their performance. However, I do understand why the disparity exists. Currently, people pay more money to watch the men play than the women. I think that will and can change if the women are given opportunities to play on bigger stages. The US Women compete very well internationally and have shown their elite status.
PK: Any plans to exit retirement and play at the international level again? If not, what role will you play in promoting rugby in the US?
AP: No plans at all. I do miss it at times, but I am done with that stage of my life. I will continue to be a big fan and support International and other events in the US. I have coached a little bit, but it is unclear to me what my role will be long term. I do want to keep rugby in my life.
PK: Do you believe that rugby can become a top tier sport in the USA within the next 10 years?
AP: Rugby is an exciting an alluring sport and I believe it can become a top tier sport, but I do believe it needs to be marketed well in order for this to happen.
PK: AP, thanks so much for taking time out to share a portion of your rugby perspective with the world. I miss you on the pitch and off and look forward to seeing you again soon. We will schedule a video interview soon to share with all your comical nature. It’s so funny!
AP: Thanks, PK. I’m still excited to see you out there!