Jervey endures rugby’s rigors for 20 years
By Kyle Ringo, Camera Sports Writer
June 12, 2006
Many athletes begin playing the sports they love as children and end up devoting a lifetime to those games. For others, there is a back story, a twist of fate that leads them down the right path.
Patty Jervey took her first step toward becoming one of the pioneers of women’s rugby 22 years ago by answering a phone call in her room at the University of South Carolina.
An old high school friend was on the other end announcing a surprise visit as a member of another school’s women’s club rugby team. She invited Jervey to watch her play.
“I became completely enthralled,” Jervey said.
Not long after her introduction to the game, Jervey was on the pitch as a wing, scoring tries and developing into a top-level player. Including a few brief stretches of inactivity in the game, Jervey has spent about 20 years playing rugby and experiencing all the bumps and bruises and the rewards that come with it.
She suffered a broken left leg, a broken right hand. She has sublexed both shoulders and endured multiple concussions.
“I have a gorgeous rugby nose,” she said.
She also has myriad friends and memories to enjoy when she’s sitting under a mountain of ice packs or immersed in a hot tub.
And now it’s about time for it all to end, she says.
Jervey recently made history by earning a spot on the USA World Cup team for the fifth time. The international competition begins in late August and a champion will be crowned in September. At 42 years old, Jervey has decided this will be her final year in the game.
She has spent the past week in Boulder training with her teammates and helped the U.S. defeat Canada 25-10 on Saturday at Pleasant View Soccer complex in front of more than 1,000 people as one of the featured competitions at the USA Rugby Championships. The teams will meet in a rematch Tuesday afternoon on the same field.
“I’ve never approached a game thinking this could be my last,” Jervey said. “I definitely see this World Cup as being my swan song.”
Jervey helped the U.S. win the inaugural World Cup in 1992 and hasn’t enjoyed a similar feeling on the pitch since. She said the current cast of characters on the American side is probably under rated by the rest of the world and is capable of winning in the fall.
U.S. coach Kathy Flores was one of Jervey’s teammates on that first World Cup championship side and knows Jervey would never set the bar any lower.
“She is a pioneer and I think what makes Patty so strong is the word can’t is not in her vocabulary,” Flores said. “There is no such thing as can’t. She will do whatever she has to do when she is in there, and she is willing to play whatever small part or big part we ask her to play.
“I think that is the spirit she brings to this team.”
Jervey is known for her tenacity and toughness on the pitch, but there is another side to this resident of Atlanta, who works as a subcontractor in the furniture business as a means to feed her rugby habit.
“As tenacious as she is on the field, she’s a real sweet person off the field, very quiet and never a bad word to say about anybody,” Flores said. “It’s as if there is the devil and the angel. The devil on the field and the angel off the field.”
Jervey acknowledges there is a metamorphosis that takes place inside her when she dons her uniform and laces up her cleats. It’s what she needs to be successful in a brutal game. It’s what allowed her to keep playing all this time, laying the groundwork for the generation of women’s rugby players coming next.
“I used to say this all the time and I still feel this way. I feel like I was born to play this game because it’s a challenge physically and emotionally,” Jervey said. “I haven’t found anything else that makes me feel that way.”
Patty’s current club team is the Atlanta Harlequins.
Images: 1998 World Cup Photo