A perennial Team USA Eagle, Phaidra Knight is one of the most recognized names in women’s rugby. Today, she chats with fellow Eagle, Pam Kosanke.
PK: Pam, I am stoked to help the world get to know you. It’s very important that everyone know a little more about my crazy bud, Pam Kosanke. When did you start playing rugby and where?
Pam: Funny, no one has ever called me “crazy” before, Phaidra… (psyche). Some of my best friends at the University of Michigan introduced me to the sport. I thought THEY were the “crazy” ones at one point. I eventually gave in and started playing rugby in 2001 with Chicago North Shore. Now have rugby fever with the rest of them.
PK: What other sport(s) have you played and when?
Pam: I grew up playing competitive softball and soccer and then played varsity softball, basketball and soccer in high school. I guess the University of Michigan thought I was a pretty good softball player because they offered me a full ride scholarship! I proudly played third & shortstop for them from 1996 – 2000. Hmmm… that suddenly sounds like a looooong time ago.
PK: So how do you feel about rugby booting softball from the Olympics?
Pam: Good question. It’s a little bittersweet actually. I know how talented and amazing so many of the USA and collegiate softball athletes are, so I’m bummed for them. But of course selfishly, I’m stoked for 2016 and what this means for USA Rugby – and hopefully me!
PK: You are one of the few who has managed to play both international 7s and 15s. When did you start this how long do you anticipate playing both?
Pam: I started playing WNT 7s first, as a brand spankin’ newbie in 2001, and have been playing with the team ever since. My career with WNT 15sstarted in 2003 or 2004… I can’t even remember! I plan to play for both as long as my body, pocketbook and the coaching staffs allow. Or until my teammates tell me I just don’t have it anymore… and I DO expect them to tell me the truth – got it PHAIDRA?
PK: Got it Pam! You have shown a remarkable resilience returning to the game after working through a chronic hip injury and two subsequent surgeries. What exactly did you deal with and how are you with it now?
Pam: The Cliff Notes version is that I tore the ligamentum teres in my left hip back in 2002. It wreaked havoc on my pelvis, back and eventually my neck and shoulders. Because it’s such an odd injury (usually found in NFL, NHL or car accident patients), the mechanical dysfunction went undiagnosed until exploratory surgery in 2009. I continue to battle the compensatory patterns today, and now used to a lifestyle of pre-hab, rehab, post-hab and pain management.
PK: Tell us a bit about your non-rugby life, if that actually exists. Do you have pets? Marriage on the horizon? Laundry? If I were to look in you refrigerator, what would I find?
Pam: In my “spare” time I work as a VP Account Director at Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago. It pretty much takes up the rest of my life except for my two beautiful and truly CRAZY pups, Norman and Graham. They are undoubtedly the #1 loves of my life. I’m also studying in my “spare” time to be a Physical Therapist down the road (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!) Yes, I DO think marriage is my future… and I can’t wait! My laundry and refrigerator situation is embarrassing. Laundry sits clumped on my bed until I get annoyed enough to fold it – usually at midnight. You’ll find milk, eggs, maybe an avocado, and WAY too much Diet Mountain Dew in my fridge. (Jen Sinkler would puke right now.) Yes, I still live like a college student.
PK: What role did a man named “Smitty” play in your life?
Pam: Um, I’m pretty sure you know the story, girl but just to humor you, he was an old-school trainer who knocked the stuffing out of me in the boxing ring in Brooklyn. It was not a shining moment. I begged him to stop and never went back. I’m still so ashamed of myself. Happy now?
PK: Elated, actually. What has been your favorite rugby moment?
Pam: Wow, there are too many. But one that will always stand out is my experience playing 7s in Fiji. I took a warm-up lap around the stadium before the game and the crowd went absolutely wild, but I had no idea why. After the game, the Fijian rugby girls thanked me endlessly for doing it. Apparently, only the men were “allowed” to circle the sacred pitch like that. It was a huge reminder of how far we (women) still have to go to get the same level of respect and opportunity as men – in culture and in sport.
PK: Who have you placed your bets on in the World Cup (name your top 3 picks)?
Pam: Phaidra, I don’t gamble. Ever. And let’s be honest, I really don’t care who wins unless it’s me or my team.
PK: Okay… What will it take for women’s rugby to get the notoriety and support it deserves?
Pam: First and foremost, we need the basics like marketing and financial support from USA Rugby. However, as players it is OUR responsibility to get fitter, faster and better at the game of rugby. In fact, it is our duty to the development of the women’s game. We need more women committed to training and playing at the international level to get the world’s attention. Both sports fan and financial support starts with respect. And I think we can do more to earn it simply by performing better on the field. So let’s get to work, ladies.
PK: Pam, you rock! Thanks letting me help the world get to know you a little better.
Pam: No, YOU rock Phaidra. You’ve been a game-changer for USA Rugby and I’ve got nothing but love and respect for you. Thank you.
Tomorrow, our special RWC analyst and Eagles 7s Captain, Matt Hawkins, picks his RWC Dream Team.