Rugby in Rio Review (with Lisa and Sonia)

ABM: What was Rio like? The vibe of the city, the crowd, the food?

Sonia: Rio was an interesting city.  I really wish I'd had more time to explore!  (And two feet to explore on. --Editor: Sonia is currently recovering from an injury!)   Brazil is incredibly diverse, and with the international crowd there for the Olympics, it was such a mix of people!  As for the food, it was almost the opposite.  I have never been to a major city with what seemed like such a homogeneous diet.  So much bread with cheese!  Don't get me wrong, the cheese balls were amazing, but three times a day was a lot...

 

 

ABM: What was it like to see former teammates on the world stage?

Lisa: The energy of the stadium was electrifying. Rugby is different than other sports in that there already exist many successful international tournaments and series that lend themselves to crowds similar to those that were in Rio. Women's Rugby 7's on Olympic stage however--the excitement of seeing formers teammates and [their] opposition taking the pitch as ambassadors of those that have grown rugby in the US was powerful. I had goosebumps the entire time the US took the pitch! 

Sonia: Absolutely unbelievable. It's an incredible experience to watch anyone you know compete in the Olympics, let alone your teammates and friends…Watching Kelly Griffin compete was particularly meaningful to me.  We co-captained UCLA together and spent countless hours training together throughout college.  I used to joke that I spent more time with Kelly than I did with my parents during my childhood...In 2011, just after we won our first WPL National Championship together, she told me she had been invited to train down in Chula Vista with the first ever rugby residents. I started saving money immediately for my inevitable trip to Rio in 2016.  Watching her compete at the Olympics, realizing her lifelong dream, and witnessing the thousands of workouts and years of commitment culminate into arguably the most prestigious athletic stage, was an unimaginable experience.  It was very emotional for me, and I am extremely grateful that I was able to be there to witness it. 

 

ABM: How did you plan for this trip?  (Flights, accomodations, tickets, etc.)  We're thinking Tokyo 2020 for those of us stragglers who didn't make it out this time around.  Did you have to do anything crazy to get seats for the rugby events?

Lisa: We hurried up and waited a lot. I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Parts of the trip that was ok for, but we for sure had flights, housing in Rio, and tickets to the women's rugby... The rest was not as organized as [Chou’s] Googledoc with day-to-day deets. 

Sonia: I participated in every possible opportunity to get rugby tickets in the US.  I think there were three rounds of lottery, and one or two releases of additional tickets.  For all of my efforts, I was able to obtain a SINGLE ticket (of the twelve rugby tickets I requested each time).  There was absolutely no way I was going to miss seeing the women's rugby (see above), so I contacted a friend living in the UK to see if there were still tickets available there.  A certain number of tickets are allotted to each country, so although the US was sold out, other countries could still have tickets…My friend was able to buy tickets not only for me, but also for many other All Blues and friends who had not been able to get tickets in the US…

However, once we arrived in Rio, there were tons of extra rugby tickets!  [It was] very upsetting considering that some people who were unable to get tickets in the US decided not to come.  The stadium was about half-empty.  So my advice for Tokyo goers - go to the Olympics even if you can't get all your rugby tickets beforehand.  You will most likely be able to purchase them there (and probably for way cheaper)!

 

ABM: Any memorable stories from the fan stand? 

Lisa sent us a couple of pictures:

Did you catch the #chouderheads craze?  Chou was blowing up newsfeeds all over the world. #chouismyspiritanimal Photo: Lisa Dombroski

Did you catch the #chouderheads craze?  Chou was blowing up newsfeeds all over the world. #chouismyspiritanimal

Photo: Lisa Dombroski

All Blues Family Reunion in Rio.  

Photo sent by Lisa Dombroski

 

ABM: What did you do when you weren't watching the Olympic events?

Instead of a thousand words, Lisa chose to again send us a picture.  It's a great one (we see you Irene!)!

Posing by the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 

Player Profile (August 2016): Gardenia Fatafehi "Fehi" Schaaf

Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Position(s) played: Flanker, 8-man, Inside and Outside Center

Year(s) playing rugby: 6 years...maybe longer but on and off for 6 years

All Blues since: full season with All Blues 7s during summer 2016 (played a little bit of social side in the past)

Fehi breaks through ORSU's defensive line.

Photo credit unknown (let us know!)

ABM: During the spring, you regularly play for the Sacramento Amazons, right?  How did you find the All Blues, and what got you to come to the first practice?

Fehi: During spring I do play for the Amazons. We don't have a summer 7's squad so I decided to come join the All Blues. The very first time I heard of the team was when I was about middle school or early high school because my sister-in-law (Cinthya Saafi) played with them. I also knew a few players so that made my choice easier to come to the first practice.

 

ABM: How did you first start playing rugby?  What got you into it?

Fehi: When I was growing up, Sacramento Amazons had a U19 club. I joined pretty late because my dad didn't want me playing. I joined the team my senior year in high school (2009) with all my girl cousins. It's fun playing the sport I love with family; we already have chemistry on and off the field.  My older brothers played rugby as well so growing up watching them [play] influenced me big time to play. 

 

ABM:  Ah, so your your dad didn't let you play until late in your high school career.  Do you know what eventually swayed him to allow you to play with your cousins for the U-19 team?

Fehi: My mom helped me out big time with convincing my dad to let me play. I begged her to talk to my dad so I can jump on the team with my family members. Even then, I couldn't play half as much as I wanted to because he wouldn't allow me to play on Sundays. Sometimes I would sneak off to practice without him knowing or have a friend convince my dad to let me travel so I can play on Sundays. 

 

ABM: We're glad that worked out--we can't imagine you not being able to be on the pitch! Do you have a philosophy/mindset when you practice and play rugby?  How do you get into “the zone”?

Fehi: Before every game, I say a prayer. Before and after practice I say a prayer. That is my way of getting into "the zone". God blessed me with this talent so I never forget to thank Him.

 

ABM: During summer 7s, we particularly enjoyed seeing you run with the ball, because it always took two to three people to take you down.  Any tips you find helpful to do during training to help you break through tackles and gain meters?

Fehi: Haha...well, the trick is: don't stop your feet when you go into contact. During training, hitting the tackle bag and driving it a few meters with ball in hand definitely helps with that specific tactic. 

 

ABM: What were Club 7s nationals like?  Any fun memories with the team you want to share?

Fehi: Club 7's nationals were very competitive, as I expected. The level of competition is getting better and better. It also shows how much the game is growing in USA.

I'd have to say the best memory I have at Nationals was seeing all the signs on everyone's room doors from their spirit buddies. Those small acts go a long way for picking a person's spirits up. They build up your chemistry and make your bonds stronger.  They remind you that you're not only playing for your team but a group of girls who become family to you. 

 

ABM: Is there a particular player and/or coach that have influenced your development as a player?  In what way(s) did they help you?

Fehi: I give credit to all my coaches and family members. I take something from each person and develop from there. If one thing doesn't work then I'll pick up another skill from another coach or sibling that works best for me. 

 

ABM: Do you have other passion(s) besides rugby?  Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Fehi: Yes, I do. I'm in the healthcare profession and I can honestly say I love my job. Helping people and treating them with the integrity like they deserve is a goal of mine. I get to meet patients and learn something new everyday. It's a very humbling experience and it makes me appreciate life more.

Summer 7s Recap and Thank Yous

by Bulou Mataitoga

The 2016 summer 7s team at the Pacific North Regional championships on Treasure Island. Photo: Vic Abrenica

The 2016 summer 7s team at the Pacific North Regional championships on Treasure Island.

Photo: Vic Abrenica

The past 7s season saw some returning veterans and a lot of young players, most of whom had never played 7s before. The Cal babies (Meeko Luarca, Cathy Cai, Brooke Gemmell, and Ceara Lafferty) really stepped it up as the season progressed. I felt their presence on the field grow stronger at each qualifier tournament. Cathy, a strong player, had some of the wickedest tackles I’ve seen. Meeko, although quiet, was sneaky on the field and was a calming presence for the team. Brooke really showed up at nationals in the last game and played her best game ever, from her intensity, to her support lines, to her ball distribution. Ceara (“8 Foot”) was a strong runner, but also a great distributor and played within the team very well.

The beginning of the season was a bit rough because we didn’t have an official head coach until Jack Baird came from the UK, but we made it through the first couple tournaments with Sarah Davis. A veteran player herself, her coaching style drew from her own experiences as a player. She put herself in our shoes and coached from that perspective, and I found that style unique and helpful. When Jack came, he used his expertise to set up our roster combinations so that it emphasized our strengths and minimized our weaknesses. He cared a lot about winning, but he cared more about the players, and that quality is rare to come across in coaches nowadays. With the structure that he brought to our 7s program, we were able to beat Life West for the last available seed to go to Nationals.

Although we were such a young team, we still had some old and wise veterans in the mix. Jessica Turner (JT) brought that fire and intensity that we needed to pump ourselves up, and her "hyphy" attitude really brought the team to life. Elena Edwards and Fehi Schaaf (“the twins”) were powerhouses who were strong enough to break the line and take 3-4 defenders with them, and skilled enough to get a good offload off in traffic. Not only that, but they always had great field vision and distributed the ball wide when necessary. Cassie "Tard" Tong was a solid experienced player for us this season. I remember I broke the line one time and I thought no one was with me, but I turned left and I saw Tard calling for the ball and she scored off that. She’s got the hands man, and she’s a great distributor and solid on defense. Last I heard, she’s still looking for that Pikachu…

Then we had Frieda Fetuu, the oldest one of us all. Probably the most versatile one (along with JT), she could play with the forwards and backs and still come up with the most creative plays you’ll see. She has a natural ability to step defenders and get that one-handed offload going, but can just as easily burn down the field to score tries. Her field vision and playmaking abilities really helped us as a team to get more scoring opportunities.

Our wingers Maggie Simpson and Courtney Hendrickson were insane on defense, and never let anyone get by them. As a fullback, it’s rare to have these kinds of wingers who you can always trust to shut down their zone on defense. They always played on my outside and I knew that I could always count on them to finish and score the try. Not only that, but they worked really hard to get off their own lines to support a line break down the middle or on the outside. Speaking of incredible work rate, that’s what Maddie Taylor brought. She’s feisty, sneaky, and quick off every play. I love playing with her because she’s got this ability to connect with anyone on the field. Also, even though she’s not the biggest player, she can get anyone to ground and that’s what made her great on defense. A good tactical player, on attack she knew the plays back to front so she was always there at the breakdown or the offload. 

Overall, captaining this 7s squad was a new experience for me and I wouldn’t want to do it with any other team. I also wanted to give thanks to all the players who came out to practice when they could make it (Chou, Bosko, Jamie, Lia, Tess, and the Stanford girls) because they brought that experience that we needed to make the nationals squad even stronger. Thank you for dedicating your time. 

Alumna Interview: Victoria "Vix" Folayan

Name: Victoria "Vix" Folayan

Hometown: Boston, MA and Oakland, CA

Position(s) played: 7’s-Wing, 15’s-Wing and Flanker

When/how long did you play for the All Blues? 2006-2012

Victoria "Vix" Folayan in her Team USA jersey.  She is one of three All Blues alums who represented in Rio 2016.

Picture: Getty Images

ABM: How did you initially come to play for the All Blues?

Vix: Well, some college teammates like Katrina “Bisquit” Logan played for the All Blues after graduating.  Playing undergraduate rugby at Stanford, I had heard a lot about the club and was definitely intrigued by what rugby after college could look like. Could I handle it? Would it be all fun and games, or would it be professional? I had little expectations at that time, but I did know superstars like Jen Crawford, Jen Crouse, Mari Wallace, Jamie Burke and many others were affiliated with the team. That said the great athletes and people of the All Blues acted as motivators and piqued my interest in playing. It took me some time to actually go out for my first practice though! I was quite nervous to be playing with such cool athletes.

 

ABM: What did you take from playing on the pitch as an All Blue that you used on the Olympic Stage?

Vix: When I played with the All Blues, there was always an air of confidence that exuded from our hearts. I knew that every single woman on the field wearing All Blue blue and gold was going to fight their heart out to succeed. I had faith that every game was a hard fought match and we all left it on the field. That determination and confidence was incredibly helpful. In Rio, when the US played top tier teams like Australia and New Zealand, I channeled that All Blues confidence. It was simply beautiful—we looked into each other’s eyes and knew that no matter what the outcome, we were going to fight. I can never forget that feeling, and I felt it all the time with the All Blues.

 

ABM: How do you prepare, mentally and physically, for an Olympic match? How do you maintain your level of competitiveness from the first minute of the first match to the last minute of the last match?

Vix: Preparation for those 6 games began 3 and a half years earlier, in Oakland while I watched the US in Dubai. It was one of the first tournaments for the women’s world series, and I wanted with all of my heart to be there. I was chosen for that specific tour, and I vowed to do all I could to not have to watch another game on a computer screen. The mental preparation that was to follow consisted of making sure I took things one day at a time. One goal at a time, one specific skill to master at a time. First I wanted to get to the Olympic Training center, next I wanted to play in the World Cup, and it continued in that fashion until the Olympics. Its funny because once I was finally at the Olympics, it took an honest few days to really understand that I had made it. All of those little goals were almost complete. Pretty crazy thinking back. 

The physical preparation is built into the Chula Vista Olympic Center residency regimen. We trained 5-6 days a week, with about 8 hours each day of dedicated rugby and elite athlete training. Field sessions every day, with anything from skills and set pieces, to conditioning games and intense interval sprints (I don’t miss those!). We also had a mental strength counselor, a nutritionist, a high performance coach, strength coaches, technical coaches, and a complete sports medicine facility as well. With the amount of resources available at the center, anyone can be physically prepared to compete in the Olympics if [the resources are] used effectively. 

During the games, my level of competitiveness is always high. That is in my nature. The true challenge was for me to stay focused and not get caught up in all of the lights. My teammates were helpful in that respect. We would check in with each other before set pieces, and make sure we were still connected. That was really nice to have. The goal for each game was to stay in the present moment.

 

ABM: Who has influenced you the most as a player?  What did you learn from them?

Vix: I am trying to think of just one person, but that’s close to impossible. I have learned from every rugby player I have ever played with or against. Rugby players are my influence—young, old, 15s, 7s, touch, no matter. The reason why I love rugby so much is because there is always something to learn

 

ABM: We have been told that you get a stipend to train at the OTC, but did you have to do other things to keep yourself financially afloat? Can you tell us a bit more about striking that work-training balance?

Vix: I never worked outside of training at the center. I was lucky to get one of the higher range stipends. I did not live luxuriously, but I was able to take care of myself. The work-training balance for me was quite easy only because I didn’t feel like training was work, and I had no other work besides training. Halfway through my training I enrolled in an online graduate school, to help create a little brain distraction from rugby. But to be honest, I mostly ate, drank and breathed rugby that whole time!

 

ABM: Training-wise, what will you be focusing on now that Rio has concluded? 

Vix: Training, what training? I’m not done? Haha. Yeah, I am still figuring out if I will be continuing a pursuit of elite level rugby. So that said, my training for now is simply long walks on the beach, hikes in the hills with my lovely dog Pop-pi, exploring vegetarian healthy food options in the bay, yoga and the occasional Zumba class. If I were to continue to pursue elite 7s rugby, I would shift my focus to aerobic capacity and flexibility. I didn’t play every minute of every game, and I want to build a larger base before fine tuning.

 

ABM: Since Rio, we have received multiple messages from people who want to try playing rugby with us.  How do you think women’s rugby will change after being featured for the first time in the Olympics? (more specifically in the USA)

Vix: You’ve said it right there. Rio was an opportunity for rugby to grow in the states. I think the USA has a reputation of being a powerhouse when it comes to the Olympics, and so I know for sure that there are some women and girls that watched us almost beat the top teams, and want to be a part of beating those top teams. Additionally, I think it gave a chance for young girls to see that it is okay to be strong, and that it is highly welcomed in the rugby community. I hope that women’s rugby will be just as exciting as soccer or football.

 

ABM: Switching gears a little bit.  What are your current favorite song(s) to pump yourself up to?

Vix: Beyonce has and will always be a part of my playlist.  Beyond her, I’ve got a wide range of songs, and I usually cater them to how I want to feel for the game. I’ve got some Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Fall Out Boy, David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Salt N Pepa, Rihanna, Niki Minaj… the list could go on for a while…

 

ABM: What are Olympic rugby socials like?

Vix: I have no idea what you are talking about. I plead the fifth.

Coach Announcement: Katrina Logan to Lead WPL Team for Fall 2016

We are glad to announce that Katrina "Bisquit" Logan will be coming back to serve another term as head coach for Fall 2016.  This will be her second WPL season coaching the All Blues after leading the team to a second place finish at Nationals last year.  At the kickoff meeting early in the season, Logan said that her overall goal this season is for players "to enjoy the journey of the season, not just necessarily the outcome." Nevertheless, she has three requirements for her players: to compete, to learn, and to play and have fun.  She stressed the importance of competition during practices, with players "driving each other to get better."

Katrina "Bisquit" Logan, an All Blues alum, will be heading the team for the Fall 2016 WPL season. This will be her second season coaching the All Blues. Photo: Sydney Provan

Katrina "Bisquit" Logan, an All Blues alum, will be heading the team for the Fall 2016 WPL season. This will be her second season coaching the All Blues. Photo: Sydney Provan

Logan has 17 years of combined playing and coaching experience.  She started out by playing for Stanford University Women's Rugby, where she represented both the U-23 Pacific Coast Grizzlies and the U-23 National Team.  After graduation she played for several bay area teams including the Berkeley All Blues in 2009 and 2013, as well as the Pacific Coast Grizzlies Senior 15s and 7s select sides. In 2008, she joined the staff at her alma mater as assistant coach for the women's rugby team.  She is currently in her 8th year there, with her specialty being on the forwards. When not on the pitch, Logan serves as an attorney in a nonprofit organization in East Palo Alto. 

We are glad to have her back on board!  The All Blues will kick off the WPL season with an away match vs. the Oregon Sports Union in Portland, Oregon on September 10th.  The first home game will be against the San Diego Surfers a week later, on September 17th, at St. Mary's College in Moraga.