A perennial Team USA Eagle, Phaidra Knight is one of the most recognized names in women’s rugby. Today, she chats with fellow Team USA Legend, Blair Groefsema.
PK: Blair, I have to open by saying there was no way I was going to miss out on talking to you this week. What all are you up to these days?
Blair: Holla at a playa! Well Phai, life with me is awesome. I got engaged to the love of my life in February so we have been busy planning our wedding. Also, my sister and her hubby had a beautiful baby in March so that has been fun watching her grow….hopefully she will turn out just like me =) and I am also still working at the same high school in SF ( If you need a visual, think Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds). Life is good.
PK: Where did you grow up and who was your childhood hero? What sports did you play in high school? College?
Blair: I am from the beautiful city of Bakersfield, California. Some refer to it as the armpit of California, but I don’t let those haters bring me down. I have much love for my hometown and the simple life! In high school, I was a complete jock and played volleyball, basketball, and softball. My sister was my childhood hero, but I also so badly wanted to be like the character Buffy in the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer…that girl rocked it! My first year in college, I decided to quit playing sports because I was so burned out, and instead, I joined the Delta Gamma Sorority. Even though I had a blast with those girls and I loved going to the theme parties, I knew I needed to find something active to keep me sane. My dad had played rugby for 14 years, so he encouraged my older sister and I to go out. After the first practice, I was hooked…not just because of the amazing sport, but the amazing girls that were on the team. My beautiful ruggers of UCSB are so special… Plus, Rugby People in general are just bomb.
PK: I understand that you love to go for runs in your ‘hood?
Blair: Yes, Phai. I enjoy jogging outside as it relaxes me.
PK: I see. And have you ever gone for a run and while on it, had the misfortune of mistaking your house for someone else’s?
Blair: Hmmm… ya know… I don’t really recall.
PK: Interesting. You know Blair, I’m going to just let that little story remain private property of the 2010 World Cup Team. Deal?
Blair: Deal. (Sigh of relief)
”PK: Alrighty then. Moving on… When you started playing rugby, did you ever imagine you would play in a World Cup?
Blair: Ha, never did I think that. I knew I loved the game, but there were so many other things in life that I enjoyed doing: Going out with my friends, spending time with my fam, dancing, enjoying delicious beverages, sleeping-in on weekends, eating whatever I wanted, and shopping. I just didn’t want to give any of that up. Also, I knew I would have to work harder than I had ever worked before, and I wasn’t sure this was something I really wanted to do or could do.
PK: What has been your best tour with the USA?
Blair: This is a tough one. Even though this tour was awful because we were in ugly, snowy England, and everyone got sick and was puking, it would have to be my first Tour in Dec. 2007. England dominated us the whole game, but despite how bad we were losing, this was the first time I had confidence in myself and I felt all the hard work I had put in paid off. The score wasn’t close, but after playing them, I just KNEW we had the potential of beating them… and ultimately being the best in the world.
PK: What was training like leading up to the 2010 Rugby World Cup? Nutrition?
Blair: Training was hard. Because we all work full-time jobs, most of us would have to get up at 4:45 am to lift before work, then go to work all day, then do a mini sprint workout before practice, and then practice for 2 hours, then come home and stuff my face with whatever was available, and then go to bed only to wake up and do it all over again. I had no social life, had limited time with non-rugby friends and family, and I missed out on a lot of special events such as weddings and birthdays. What kept me going was knowing that each one of my teammates was putting the same effort and commitment into this team that I was, and I wanted to be not only the best #8 in my country, but the best #8 in the world. I also felt that I was so honored to be given this opportunity to play and represent my country, and I felt like I owed it to all the women who had ever worn a USA jersey, as well as all the women who would do anything to wear one… I definitely struggled with nutrition – I LOVE Taco Bell, Donuts, Cookie Dough, and anything sweet. I used to just eat what I wanted, but realized I needed to change my ways to be the best athlete that I could be. That was really, really hard, and probably my biggest struggle. I tried to add vegetables and fruits to my diet, and added a lot more protein.
PK: Are you currently playing with the USA? Do you plan to give it a go for another World Cup?
Blair: No, I am not currently playing for the USA and I have actually taken a break from rugby in general. I feel like I put so much of my family and friends on hold while I was training for the last World Cup, and now that I have a sexy man to come home to every night, it makes it hard for me to want to leave and to make that same level of commitment. I also have been spending so much time with my family lately and my beautiful Goddaughter, and that has just been awesome. At this point, I can’t say that I am going to come back. I don’t really want to say that though, because playing on the USA team was honestly the most amazing experience I ever had. Not only did I meet some of the most AMAZING women in the US, but I felt so much pride wearing our nations colors and representing our great country. Playing for our country was the biggest honor I have ever been given. So, its hard to walk away from something like that.
PK: What was your take on the 2011 World Cup? Were you impressed with the level of play? Who was your favorite team?
Blair: 2011 World Cup was awesome to watch. Although I enjoyed watching all the good-looking men from around the world, the USA men will always be my favorite. I have so much pride in our country and am always rooting for our boys.
PK: In your opinion, what needs to happen in order to gain spectator popularity for women’s rugby?
Blair: Well, if I do say so, we have an EXTREMELY attractive USA team. There is something for everyone as we are all so different and provide a variety of flavors. So, with that being said, I think we need to get these beautiful faces on billboards, television, magazines…you name it. Another idea would be more exposure in general. So many people have never seen a women’s rugby game before, and if the sport got more exposure on television, then I do believe we would have a greater fan base. Also, youth development is huge. Getting young women involved in high school or younger would be ideal. As a parent, why wouldn’t you want your daughter to be a part of a rugby team? You would be teaching her the importance of teamwork, commitment, working hard, and dedication. Rugby Women represent strength, courage, pride, resilience, and passion. The USA Women’s National Team is such a diverse group of women, and there is no specific mold you have to fit into it. You can simply be yourself. It doesn’t matter your size, shape, height, color… ALL women can play rugby – if they have the heart to do it.
PK: Thank you so much for taking this time to share a little of yourself with the world.
Blair: Thanks, girl. It was a pleasure to see your hussy face. I would like to make a shout out to all my fellow Attractive ruggers: Attractive Americans + Friendship Rugby = WORLD DOMINATION… Love You, Mean It!!! XOXO
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