A perennial Team USA Eagle, Phaidra Knight is one of the most recognized names in women’s rugby. Today, she chats with Amy Daniels, another Eagle legend.
PK: Amy, you are one of my long time friends in this sport. I want to open up by thanking you for sharing a bit of yourself with the rugby world.
Amy: Pk, I am happy to be able to share a little bit about myself.
PK: Let’s open with you telling us a little bit about where you grew up and what sports you played as a youngster.
Amy: Oh geez, where to start? Growing up in Pennsylvania, I had my hand in every sport imaginable. My earliest memory is playing crab soccer in elementary school. My love for sports just continued from there. My sister is 11 months older and was always 1 year ahead in school. I remember her playing basketball, softball & volleyball a year before I was able to play. I think that’s where my competitiveness began because I wanted to play and challenged her to games so that I could prove I could play. Okay, maybe I really just pouted until she let me play. I know…lame! I played basketball year round and found myself as a freshman starting varsity. I played volleyball, basketball and softball throughout high school.
PK: Where did you venture off to college? Did you play sports there?
Amy: I “ventured” off to Millersville University in PA. I was a basketball player but during my sophomore year I was introduced to rugby. I was watching a game at York College and the head coach Tom, ran up and asked me to play. He threw shorts, socks, cleats, and a jersey at me and said; “You’re going to play fullback. It’s the person in the back and you don’t let anyone past you to score. If they get past you, run them down and tackle the crap out of them.” You can imagine my initial thought….tackle? So I gave it a shot and fell in love with it. But I ended up on academic probation, had to give rugby up and transferred to Lock Haven University with my sister. I was a basketball player, but a major that I enjoyed allowed for success academically, so I began playing rugby again. My sister was always asking why I beat my body up by playing basketball, then playing rugby, only to wake up the next day and do it all over again. I think it was because it was different and not many people can do it. I always felt different and struggled with ADHD. The more active I was, the better student I was. Many people wouldn’t know, but I’ve always felt like I don’t fit in, and playing rugby gave me a sense of comfort to be myself.
PK: Gotcha… There’s something else a lot of folks don’t know unless they have played with you: You sweat a lot. Have an embarrassing sweaty rugby moment?
Amy: HA HA! “Sweat a lot” is an understatement. Just talking about sweating is making me sweat! EEWW gross, I just showered! It’s funny, when I meet players for the first time, I apologize because they will come in contact with my sweat playing rugby. Many tell me that it’s okay because they sweat a lot too. Well, pretty quickly I hear; “Oh gross, she is so sweaty!” I just laugh because YES, I sweat a lot! But I don’t really have any embarrassing moments that I can recall… that doesn’t mean there aren’t any! =P
PK: Back to your rugby career. When did you debut for the USA 7s? 15s?
Amy: But the embarrassing stories are so much more fun to read about! Anyway… My debut for the USA 7’s Team was in 2005 in Hong Kong. However, I had begun playing USA U23’s with Emil Signes while I was still in college. And my USA 15’s debut was in August 2009 at Nations Cup held at Canada’s Appleby College.
PK: Which do you like the best?
Amy: Oh man, the million-dollar question…I think my heart lies with 7’s more than 15’s, but do enjoy playing both.
PK: Have your life experiences made you a better rugby player?
Amy: Absolutely! My life experiences allowed me to channel my aggression to grow as a rugby player. Rugby has taught me many life lessons as well. The biggest lesson was that you get one shot to make the best out of a situation and if you make a few mistakes along the way, you have to live with the consequences. Rugby has been like a surrogate mother, teaching me lessons about how to be a person, teammate, partner, teacher, and friend. Without rugby, I know for certain that my life would not be what it is today.
PK: Who has been the most influential in shaping your rugby career?
Amy: WOW…there have been so many. I would have to say Emil Signes and Sue Parker shaped my love for 7’s. Emil use to make us run around with ropes in our hands until we would nearly fall over from exhaustion. Sue was always so hard-core. She didn’t accept excuses and demanded everything, even when she was playing next to you. Another person was Pam Kosanke. She has demanded nothing but excellence from me as teammate, and I thrive and respond to people that command that from me. It is people like Pam who make rugby fun for me.
PK: World Cup 2013 (7s), World Cup 2014 (15s), The 2016 Olympics… Where do you hope to be when these occur?
Amy: YIKES…its really that close! I am not sure where I will be. Anything can happen on any given day. What I know for certain is retirement is not in my near future.
PK: Rumor has it that you have your own gym?
Amy: Yes, one of the best things I invested in was my own gym equipment. You have to train. Training is a daily occurrence. There is no other choice.I knew playing USA 7’s and 15’s, I would need to structure my life in such a way that I had no excuses for not training. I bought a 380 lb bumper plate set, a bench press, squat rack, treadmill, spin bike and a set of free weights from 10lbs to 50lbs.
PK: That’s awesome!
Amy: It’s the only way to have no excuses in my mind to not train.
PK: What will it take for Team USA to bring home both 7s and 15s World Cups as well as the Olympic Gold?
Amy: Honestly, not much! Team USA has the athletes needed to perform during all of those events. The only thing that I see as a critical factor is being able to bring everyone together where our only focus is on training together. Having to train for international competition, juggle careers, finances, etc. limit our ability to come together, to which is needed in order for Team USA to bring it all home!
PK: Amy, this has been awesome. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me. I look forward to playing with you again in the future my friend.
RS: Thank you, PK.