Rugby Legend Phaidra Knight InterviewsTeam USA Star Jill Potter

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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, Jill Potter.

PK: Potter, so glad to reconnect with you. Thanks for taking time out to connect with me today.
Potter: Absolutely Phaidra! I love having the opportunity to reconnect with one of my teammates.
PK: So, first off, what’s it like, so far, to be living with 7 other teammates for the year?
Potter: Crowded. Flashback to college – but without all the “trouble.”
PK: Seriously, who snores the loudest? Eats the most?
Potter: Haha, well my makeshift room allows me to hear everything that happens in this house, but fortunately snoring isn’t one of them. Sadly when it comes to eating, I would come in a distant second to Kimber Rozier. Every time you see Kimber, you’ll spot her with a chicken breast. Now if we were talking about overall speed of consumption, that would be a different story. Not that this is a competition or anything…
PK: Ha! Figures. Let’s back track a bit. Where did you grow up? Siblings?
Potter: I grew up in the Texas Hill Country, outside of Austin. I have a wonderful older sister and twin brother. Now I know all of you are wondering the same question, “Do you and your brother look alike?” Haha, when we were young we always replied with a “NO,” but we do have some similarities.
PK: What were your sports early on?
Potter: A little bit of this and that. Surprisingly, tennis was officially my first sport. I primarily played basketball throughout middle and high school. I thought I loved basketball until I was introduced to rugby.
PK: When did you start playing rugby and at what position?
Potter: I started playing rugby at the University of New Mexico (everyone’s a LOBO, WOOF WOOF WOOF) as a flanker. Like all rugby players these days, I was thrown into a match and told to tackle, get up and tackle some more. I guess it worked out.
PK: When did you start playing with Team USA (7s and 15s)?
Potter: My debut with the USA 15’s team was in England 2007. In the beginning stages of my rugby career I played a little bit of 7s , floating between developmental camps and all star tournaments. My first international experience with the 7s team was Vegas 2012 on the Stars and Stripes, and then Hong Kong.
PK: Which form of the game do you prefer, 15s or 7s?
Potter: This is a hard one! Honestly I love them both, and they are completely different games. I love the open field, speed and physical demand of 7s. I relish the high velocity hits more so than the constant bashing in 15s. But I have to say I love scrumming (I never thought I’d say this, thank you Sharon Blaney) and the strategy involved in 15s.
PK: Team USA recently returned from Hong Kong after facing a strong Australian side. What has the team done differently since then to prepare for London?
Potter: Our recent Australian match was an eye opener for where we really need to be to have a presence internationally, and compete at the top. Looking forward to the London tournament, we have been focusing on early recognition on attack, support, defense, and transition. It sounds like a lot, but too often in the Australian match we were left disorganized and gave up an easy try.
PK: I believe it’s important that aspiring Eagles understand that wearing the USA jersey comes with a great deal of dedication, sacrifice and perseverance, not to mention hard work. You have epitomized all of these things. Can you share with us some of the biggest challenges of your journey (please discuss your injuries and how you overcame them)?
Potter: Thanks Phaidra. Each and every one of us has made sacrifices or overcome obstacles to represent her country. For me, my biggest challenge was overcoming a traumatic neck injury prior to the 2010 World Cup. When I was younger, I had the opportunity to travel to Canada for the 2006 World Cup. From that moment, I knew 2010 was in my future. Those 4 years of training and commitment was at times wonderful, and at other times difficult. I wouldn’t give up that journey for anything. After my neck injury, I was unable to continue on to the World Cup and it was painful to go through so much to not have the chance to play on an international stage with my teammates.
Back at square 1, I had to remind myself just how lucky and blessed I was to have the opportunity to train and compete again. That year I returned to the University of New Mexico to coach rugby while I was rehabilitating. Every exercise, every action, every moment was dedicated to getting back to international rugby. My rehab and return back to rugby is largely impart to my fellow USA teammates and their support. A little over a year I was able to start playing rugby again. My first international competition was this year with the USA 7s team in Vegas.
My advice to those who are struggling with an injury is to heal physically and mentally. There is an overwhelming amount of mental demons that can derail the recovery. Battle each beast as they come, do your PT, and never give up!
PK: Are you intergrating any “CrossFit” into your training at the OTC? If so, have any of your teammates joined you?
Potter: Crossfit is an excellent training and conditioning supplement for rugby. I was first introduced to Crossfit in 2006, and in the past actively incorporated it in my rugby workouts. We train twice daily at the OTC, and unfortunately I have zero time or energy for Crossfit. Anytime I want to throw something in, I usually focus on gymnastic skill work or movements that I need to improve on in our lifting sessions. My weekends are typically filled with yoga these days.
PK: What will it take for Team USA to make the World Cup final? Medal in 2016?
Potter: There is no doubt in my mind that we are capable of making the World Cup final and getting a medal in 2016. Team USA needs more international experience, more games, and more time with each other. Some of the pieces have been coming together, and these moments will allow us to have the advancement necessary to take it all home!
PK: Potter, great insight on this. But before I let you go, I wanted to ask, have you ever played the celebrity game?
Potter: Haha, yes I have played the celebrity game. I am TERRIBLE at it.
PK: According to teammate Jamie Burke, you referred to Billie Holiday as a man. Is that true? Please explain.
Potter: Oh man, if you could only see my face flushed with embarrassment. Wait…weren’t you there for this? I was uneducated in the musical world and acted out Billie Holiday in my man voice. I used my masculine voice to say my clues:
I’m a man.” (or so I thought)
Christmas.” (and NO, it wasn’t Santa Clause, but a common holiday)
I take Vacations.” (vacation = holiday: don’t the British use this term?)
I don’t see why this was so difficult to figure out.
Needless to say, these comments will forever be a source of humor.
PK: Yes, they forever will. Thanks for sharing so much and I look forward to following up soon!
Potter: Of course. Thank YOU and hope to see you soon Phaidra!