FRIDAY’S WITH PHAIDRA: Q&A with USA Rugby Star Kristen Zdancewicz

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A perennial Team USA Eagle, Phaidra Knight is one of the most recognized names in women’s rugby. Today, she chats with Eagle Kristen “Ham”or “Brother” Zdancewicz.
PK: Brother, I am happy you agreed to this interview. I feel like I have known you for most of your rugby career, so this is a special interview for me. How long you have played rugby? What was your first rugby team?
Kristen: I’ve played rugby about 12 years now going on 13 so that makes me old but not as old as you. My first team was UW-Whitewater and then I joined the Wisconsin Women’s RFC. That’s where I first met you.

Kristen Zdancewicz
PK: If my memory serves me correctly, weren’t you playing basketball when you started your rugby career? Tell us a little about that experience for you. Don’t hold back.
Kristen: I was a Baller at UW-Whitewater all of my collegiate career. My experience there was a great one I learned a lot of on the court and off the lessons. It helped me become the rugby player I am today.
PK: I am guessing you knew this question would follow—which is your favorite, rugby or basketball?
Kristen: I have passion for both sports. When it comes down it I would rather make a bone crushing tackle then a game winning jump shot.

Rugby World Cup 2006

PK: When did you debut with the USA 15s team? How many caps do you currently have?
Kristen: Ah you don’t remember my first official tour with you. It was a double whammy I tore a bit of my calf and well you broke you beautiful oribital against Scotland in 2005! I think I’m above 10 caps now I would like to add some more but I don’t know if I will be able to catch you or Dianne as far caps go. How many are you on now? Will you be doing another cup?

PK: You know my memory was the first thing to go so your guess is as good as mine on the caps. To your second question, hmmm. Not sure. Back to you now. How has rugby most influenced you and changed your life?
Kristen: The bonds that our created at the club level to the national level. I knew if I had an issue off the field I could trust you or one of my teammates to be there to give sound guidance and I would be able to give that back. I can proudly say I have friends all over the country and a couch to crash if I’m ever in town! You make so many connections through this sport personal, business etc.

PK: Seems like we both have taken some time from international rugby since World Cup 2010. Do you aspirations to play at that level again? If so, when will you resume?
Kristen: I have aspirations to play again at the level again. However it has taken a back seat to me getting my career started in strength and conditioning. Which I’m the current assistant strength coach at the University of Wisconsin of Milwaukee. If I get an invite for the next camp I will be there with bells on to see what the young pups have. Not too mention when are you going to pick up again? You’re my inspiration to continue playing.

PK: We’ll see… 😉 What injuries have you endured while playing?
Kristen: Hmm… I’ve been fortune enough to have one major one, but other then that,  just minor ones. Your typical ACL Reconstruction to 2 hyper-extended left elbows. A concussion or two. Not to mention some muscle cramping during an international match. You know your everyday type of injuries.

PK: Okay, enough of the injury talk. Who are your picks for the 2011 World Cup final and what player has impressed you the most to this point?
Kristen: New Zealand and England are my two picks. I enjoyed watching Richie [McCaw] and Dan  [Carter – now out with groin tear]. There is one player that did stand out to me this world cup and that is Paul Emerick I think he is a treat!

PK: Name 3 things that players and the general rugby community could do to help boost the perception and exposure of women’s rugby, both domestically and internationally.
Kristen: I think making it a varsity sport at the collegiate level would help give it since we made seven’s an Olympic sport. Its at the high school level in some areas I think the next step to bring it to the fore front would be to make it a varsity sport. Think about how many collegiate athletes play and Hockey basketball and if they are good enough they can go across seas and continue their career even here in the states to a degree.

Good Knight!

PK: Once you hang up the boots, what role do you plan to take on in the sport?
Kristen: Eventually to become a coach. I don’t know if I could become a ref since I get along with them so well.

PK: Ham, my buddy, thanks for your time. I have witnessed, first hand, you blossom into a force on the pitch. It’s been a pleasure talking to you today.
Kristen: Thank you for the opportunity. Can’t wait till we take the pitch together again, hopefully in the sun as Golden Eagles in Bermuda.

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