Found via my rugby alerts, a nice Q & A from the Bakersfield Californian (registration required) with UC-Santa Barbara’s No. 8 Blair Groefsema, who’s also a U-23 Eagle.
Q and A with Blair Groefsema
By The Bakersfield Californian | Tuesday, Apr 4 2006 1:05 AM
Last Updated: Tuesday, Apr 4 2006 1:09 AM
Blair Groefsema doesn’t look like a rugby player. And for many people, rugby isn’t thought of as a woman’s sport.
Groefsema played volleyball, basketball and softball at Bakersfield High School, and had never seen an actual rugby match until she arrived on campus at UC Santa Barbara. She didn’t go out for the team until her sophomore season, but Groefsema has proven that her place is on the pitch.
In 2004, she earned the team’s Most Improved award and was first selected a captain in 2005. She was named UCSB’s MVP for the 2005 season and earned first-team All-American honors from USA Rugby. The senior 8-man is also a member of the Southern California Griffins and the USA Rugby U23 Eagles.
In 15 matches this season for UCSB, Groefsema has scored 21 tries.
Rugby is a very physical sport. How tough is it, having to be tough?
To be honest, the rough and tough aspect attracted me to the sport. I have always loved playing intense, physical sports, so when I found out about rugby, I thought it would be perfect for me.
I am not going to lie, though. I am sore almost every day from all the hitting and contact that rugby entails. My body has gotten used to the soreness, and it simply became part of my lifestyle.
You didn’t pick UCSB with an intent to play rugby, correct?
I had never seen a rugby game before I attended UCSB. I chose to go to school there for multiple reasons, the first being the school’s location. I love the beach, and it is not too far from home.
My family means everything to me, so I wanted to be able to come home whenever I wanted to watch my brother’s games and spend time with my parents. My older sister went there also, and she is my best friend so it just made sense. Plus, academically, UCSB is a great school.
How did you end up playing rugby?
Because my dad had played for 14 years, I always heard him talk about what a great game it was. I never really knew that there were opportunities for women to get involved until my sister heard about it from a friend.
We decided to go out for the team together during my sophomore year, and her fifth year. We both still love the game, and plan on playing it until our bodies quit on us.
Most would not see rugby as a sport for women. Why do you think it is?
Most people would not see rugby as a women’s sport probably because of the physical aspect of the game. There is a lot of contact in rugby, and you have to enjoy hitting and being hit.
It is a sport that is very demanding on your body. Most girls are just not interested in that stuff.
What was it like joining when you had no experience?
It was really exciting because I love learning about new sports, and I was excited to learn how to play a new game, especially because my dad talked so highly of it. The girls that I met on the team were awesome people, and very helpful also.
Your position is 8-man. What do you do?
My on-field responsibilities are to control the ball in the scrum, make hard tackles, and lead the defense. As 8-man, I should lead the defense, and get to most of the breakdowns first. The 8-man, as well as the flankers, are the first people to the action, and the 8-man should have good ball-handling skills also.
You were selected to play on a USA Rugby junior national team. Was that expected?
It was definitely not expected. I felt pretty confident in my play during league, as well as in my territory, but I had no idea that it would be noticed nationally.
It was a great honor to be selected and to be able to play with such amazing athletes, and to meet such great people. Plus, the coaching staff was incredible as I learned more about rugby in those two weeks on tour than I had in my previous two years of playing.
Are you looking to get on the senior national team?
In order for me to get to that level of play, it would take a lot of hard work and dedication. Plus, women’s rugby is not very developed in California, especially not in Southern California, so I would have to change locations.
I would also need to start lifting weights, and get on a strict workout plan. I don’t know if I am ready for that yet. I am still enjoying my time as a 22-year-old, and to be on that national team is like having a full-time job.
We’ll see, though. I love the game, and my passion for it continues to grow.
What do you think is the best thing about playing rugby?
The best thing about rugby is definitely the hitting. I know this sounds very “unlady-like,” but I absolutely love to tackle and hit people. The contact is just awesome. The game itself is brilliant, and the great thing about rugby is that all different body types can be successful. There is a position on the field for everyone and anyone, as long as you have the heart and determination.
— Bob Varmette
I did also look for a rugby photo to post, but ended up only finding Blair’s myspace page with party pics. Sorry. 😉