CPC Featured Player: Elena "DC" Clark

Full Name (plus any rugby nickname(s)): Elena Clark a.k.a. DC

Hometown: Sunnyvale, CA

Position(s) played: In life: scrumhalf and center; for the All Blues: center

All Blues since: 2017

DC kicking for a conversion in the most recent D2 season vs. the Sacramento Amazons. Photo: Dasha Rychkova

All Blues: When and how did you first start playing rugby?  What got you into it?

DC: I showed up to college planning to join the sailing team, of all things. However, When I couldn’t decide between the two, my sister asked, “Well, who would you rather spend the next four years with? Sailors or ruggers?” That made the choice easy.

 

Did you play any sports prior to rugby?

DC: I ran the gambit as a kid, but by the time I was in high school, I was a competitive saber fencer. I even went to the Junior Olympics a few times. It was a great excuse to travel the country when I was supposed to be in school.

 DC fenced saber competitively in high school. Photo: Elena Clark

DC fenced saber competitively in high school. Photo: Elena Clark

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

DC: I’ve been super lucky to have lots of great coaches, so it’s hard to pick just one. When I played for the DC Furies 7s team, we made it to Nationals while I was still in college and definitely not on the same level as many of my teammates. However, the coach saw potential in me, so put me on the roster anyways. I got invaluable, high-level experience, and gained a lot of confidence in myself. I don’t think I’d be the same player today without that opportunity.

 

How did you first find out about the All Blues? What made you come out here and join us?

DC: The All Blues are legendary. I knew about them when I started playing on the East Coast, I continued to hear about them while playing in Arizona, and was thrilled when I moved close enough to be able to play with them.

DC on a breakaway for the Arizona Tempe Ninjas in a spring 2017 tournament. Photo courtesy of Elena Clark

Do you have a philosophy/mindset when you practice and play rugby?  Thinking about a game you thought went really well for you, how did you get your mind and body ready for that match?

DC: Being in the right mindset is so important, and surprisingly difficult. Before a game, I used to just stay loose and joke around with my teammates, so I went into the game having fun. However, recently I’ve had to change that strategy to be a bit more focused. I spent all of last D2 season working to come up with the right strategy. Now I like to listen to my own music, visualize what I’m going to do, and decide on one or two personal goals for the game. Then, once I’m on the pitch, if I ever start to get unfocused or lazy, I just remind myself that if my teammates can keep going, so can I.

Lisa Kelly and DC posing with the 40s they won (and had to chug) for being nominated as Men of the Match during a game in the most recent D2 season. Photo: Maria Kelly

What has been your most memorable time with the All Blues?

DC: On the pitch, my favorite game was the D2 finals against SFGG. What we had been working on all season finally clicked into place, and we flowed really well. It was a very gratifying experience. Off the pitch, it’s hard to pick a single experience. Every time we travel, I get to bond with different teammates and always feel a bit more part of the team. It’s a really great culture that the All Blues have created.

 

What is the best advice you have ever received about playing rugby?

DC: It’s a bit of a rugby cliché at this point, but the best thing I’ve been told by a coach is that the only wrong choice is no choice, and any choice you make is the right one. When I first started playing, I was very timid, and would sometimes freeze up if I wasn’t sure what the best option was. That advice really helped me to make decisions and stick with them in games.

DC getting low to go into contact, with teammate Bean in support during the most recent D2 season game vs. Life West Gladiatrix. 

What skills are you working on/would like to work on right now?

DC: There are always a million and one things to work on, and often my problem is choosing just one or two to focus on. Right now, I’m working on my offloads – both receiving and giving, as well as my drop kicks, and overall communication on the pitch.

 

What is your favorite non-rugby activity? Do you have any other passions besides rugby?

DC: Does drinking coffee count? I really put my heart and soul into it, every day. Besides that, I love being outdoors. Camping, hiking, biking – you name it, I’m in.

Her Sport Almost Killed Her, But That Won’t Stop Her

Berkeley rugby player won’t let fear get in the way of playing the game and working to expand its reach

 Ceara Lafferty walks off the rugby field at Estuary Park in Alameda after practice ended on June 12. (Photo: Elena Mateus)

Ceara Lafferty walks off the rugby field at Estuary Park in Alameda after practice ended on June 12. (Photo: Elena Mateus)

Ceara Lafferty was lying down on a cot at the Highland Hospital in Oakland with a thick plastic tube sticking out of her nose and another shooting out of her stomach when her family came to visit her. They came and asked her the question that no athlete wants to hear: “Are you going to keep playing?”  For the 6’0 rugby player, the answer was yes, even when her sport nearly killed her.

Lafferty went to the emergency room on April 21 after a kick to the stomach during a game punctured her intestine. She was rushed into emergency surgery to save her life after bile and stomach acid began dissolving her internal organs. Despite the injury, Lafferty, who also works for USA rugby, is expected to make a full recovery and has decided to keep playing competitively and keep expanding the sport that is part of her identity.

“My family was understandably upset when I didn’t quit, but rugby is a huge part of my story,” she said, “How could I just leave it behind now after one thing happened?”

Lafferty was playing for the Berkeley All Blues in the Northern California Women’s Club Division II Finals when she thought she just got the wind knocked out of her after a tackle. But when the captain of the team did not immediately get up after making the tackle from behind, coach Evan Hoese took her off the field. “She is our captain and a powerhouse. She always gets back up, so when she didn’t, I took it seriously,” she said.

It was not until later that evening during the team social at a local bar that Lafferty realized she needed to go to the emergency room. “I ate something and started feeling an escalating pain,” she said, “As the night progressed I could not walk anymore because of it.”

Her girlfriend rushed her to the Alta Bates emergency room in Berkeley where she was told she had a laceration in her liver and was fine, but needed to be observed at Highland Hospital. Once there, the radiologist looked at her CT scan and saw fluid in the abdomen. “The doctor said I must have a hole in my bowels,” she said, “Then they told me I needed emergency surgery ASAP.”

Lafferty’s final diagnosis was a laceration in her liver and gastrointestinal perforation in the duodenum of her intestine. Even with maximum treatment, the risk of death for gastrointestinal perforation can be as high as 50 percent, according to a 2008 study by The Medical Clinics of North America.

Though the surgery was successful and Lafferty was released after 7 days in the hospital, she  was left with more questions than answers. “I could have died from this, so it made me question everything I had done in my life,” she said, “Was I okay with everything I was doing?”

Those close to Lafferty, like teammate Alyssa Collins, knew that playing rugby was something she would always continue doing. “I was not surprised at all when she came back to practice,” Collins said, “She is back on the pitch already and it is absolutely representative of how dedicated and passionate she is.”

During her first practice back on June 12, Lafferty was able to jog but not much else. But that didn’t stop her from high-fiving her teammates during sprints or pulling aside a player to explain how shifting the ball creates space. “She is one of the most selfless players I have ever seen. She puts everybody’s well being above her own,” said coach Hoese.

For Lafferty, rugby is something that runs deeper than an 80-minute game: “There is an unbeatable feeling you get when you run through 3 people trying to tackle you at full speed, sure,” she said, “But it’s about more than that, it’s about the community that has empowered me to be my true self.”

Lafferty started playing rugby when she was a freshman at Cal in 2013. She knew she wanted to play a team sport and after her first practice with the Cal Women’s Rugby team, she never looked back. “The team understood me and gave me the strength to come out as queer,” she said, “Everyone is unapologetically themselves and they validated my existence.”

Now, since graduating, Lafferty has dedicated her time to developing youth rugby on behalf of USA Rugby. In her role as the Impact Beyond program coordinator, she provides free flag rugby curriculum to schools in the Bay Area as part of the World Cup effort to assess the host area’s needs. By the time the World Cup kicks off in San Francisco this July, Impact Beyond will have brought rugby to 75 schools and 22,500 kids across the bay area, according to the USA Rugby site. “This sport has given me so much,” she said, “My hope is that rugby can do the same for others, especially young girls, who deserve to feel strong and empowered.”

Lafferty is expected to begin full contact practices in October and will continue teaching rugby curriculum ahead of the World Cup from July 20-22 in San Francisco. She said, “I decided that I wasn’t going to let the fear of something happening keep me from doing what I love."

CPC Featured Player: Sally Shatford

Full Name (plus any rugby nickname/s): Sally Shatford

Hometown: Pasadena, CA

Position(s) played: 6, 11, 13, etc.

All Blues since: 2017

Best advice you have ever received about playing rugby: “The worst decision you can make is no decision”

 Sally breaking through the line vs. SFGG during the most recent D2 season.

Sally breaking through the line vs. SFGG during the most recent D2 season.

       Sally first started playing rugby sophomore year of college at Colorado College. She had some friends that had already been playing who said she could give it a try. She used to play soccer, and missed playing a sport, so she came out to a practice and found that she loved it. After graduating, some of the same rugby friends who played at CC and also later played with the All Blues—Sydney P, Denali G and Monika R—encouraged her to come play for our team, and in the summer of 2017 Sally first donned our blue and gold jersey.  

Sally during her first season playing with the All Blues.

       When asked what her most memorable time was with the All Blues thus far, Sally said that the most recent D2 finals stuck with her. According to Sally, “it was the best game we played all season and made me feel and recognize all the progress the team had made in a few months.” She also especially credited the leadership team with her own personal rugby growth during that season. She said that she’s “never been on a team where everybody is invested in developing everybody else! It's a really nice atmosphere. I am not afraid to ask questions or make mistakes.” She appreciated that leadership explained not just what to do, but also the how and why. According to Sally the focus was “on becoming better at reading the field instead of [solely learning] very specific plays.” This worked out well for her, since besides improving her defensive skills, developing her field vision was her other goal.  

 Sally catches a runaway Life West fullback.

Sally catches a runaway Life West fullback.

 The 2018 D2 team at the end of season finals.

The 2018 D2 team at the end of season finals.

       Outside of rugby, Sally’s passions are cooking and making things. She is currently trying to improve her wood working skills, which she did a lot with her dad growing up. She also just recently earned her Master's in Geography at SFSU, successfully defending her thesis on mapping areas of income-based segregation and affordable housing locations in San Francisco. Congratulations Sally!

CPC Featured Player: Florence Gomez

Full Name (plus any rugby nickname/s): Florence Gomez (Too many nicknames to name)

Hometown: Yigo, Guam
Position(s) played: Center, Back Three

  Flo on the attack in a WPL match last season versus ORSU.  Photo modified from Mark Gordon Murray

Flo on the attack in a WPL match last season versus ORSU.  Photo modified from Mark Gordon Murray

All Blues: When and how did you first start playing rugby? What got you into it?

Florence: I was a late bloomer. I just started playing about four years ago, when I reached my dirty thirties. I was approached while out with my roommate by a rugger, not knowing that my roommate had played in college. She convinced me to check out one practice and I instantly fell in love.

flo4.jpg

AB: Did you play any sports prior to rugby?

F: I’ve been playing sports since the age of four. My first sport was track, I’ve tried to play just about every sport they offered in schools but basketball and fast pitch softball where the only ones I stuck with. I ended up playing for a traveling softball team in the Navy after high school. Now rugby is the only sport I play.

  Cottontown 7s Champions! Photo courtesy of Florence Gomez

Cottontown 7s Champions! Photo courtesy of Florence Gomez

AB: Do you have a philosophy/mindset when you practice and play rugby? 

F: When I play I just think about having fun, when you stop having fun you lose the love for playing.
 


AB: How did you first find out about the All Blues? What made you come out here and join us?

F: The All Blues are known nationwide; I’ve always heard good things about this team. I wasn’t sure what team I was going to play with when I moved to Berkeley. I decided to check out each team and choose from there but after one practice with the ABs I knew this is where I wanted to be. I loved the environment and the team was extremely welcoming.
 

  Flo with some fellow All Blues at an after match social in Santa Rosa. Photo credit: Victoria Abrenica

Flo with some fellow All Blues at an after match social in Santa Rosa. Photo credit: Victoria Abrenica

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

F: My first vet Kelly Sager is probably the most influential person. My first year playing we didn’t have a coach and I was the only rookie. She took me under her wing and taught me the game--mostly the rules and how to use them to my advantage.

  Flo with her vet, Kelly Sager, at the Chattanooga Pitch A Tent 7s Tournament. Photo courtesy of Florence Gomez

Flo with her vet, Kelly Sager, at the Chattanooga Pitch A Tent 7s Tournament. Photo courtesy of Florence Gomez


AB: What is the best advice you have ever received about playing rugby?

F: The best advice I’ve ever received is that I have more time than I think.
 

AB: Any other fun facts about yourself you’d like to share with us?

F: I am a sock enthusiast, I own a lot of socks lol.