Sunday, December 13, 2015

Snow, Rain and Shine

Sporting my L.L.Bean Downtek Jacket

For the past 8 months I have been living in sunny San Diego.  As the holiday season approaches it has been a unique climate change from what I have been used to.    I spent the majority of the past few years in the snow leading up to Christmas and became accustomed to the cold weather being an indication of the holidays.  I realized recently that I have not seen the snow since immersing myself in a summer sport and retiring from bobsled.  L.L. Bean creates a variety of reliable products that have kept me warm in the snow and sleet and now is keeping me dry in the California rain.  While bobsledding it was rare for a race to be cancelled due to weather.  In most cases I spend the hours leading up to the competition outside attempting to warm up for the race.  I was wrapped from head to toes in multiple layers and clipped yak tracks over my tennis shoes so that I wouldn’t slip on the ice.  One of the most difficult pre competition warm up sessions, I remember spending most the time sprinting with my eyes shut as to try and avoid the snow pelting in my eyes.

Today my training and training gear is much different than during my bobsled days.  Now living in San Diego I obviously do not run into the same snow problems that I had during bobsled, but instead deal with the occasional rain fall.  Recently we had a rainy day and I was able to rely on my In The Arena L.L. Bean downtek water repellent jacket to not only keep me warm but protect me from the rain.  The thought of running around in the rain did not exactly appeal to me, which made me laugh as I thought about snowy weather I use to be accustomed to training in.  As we suited up in our rain gear to hit the muddy field it brought me back to being a kid playing soccer.  Some of the most fun I had playing soccer was when it had just rained and I would find myself slide tackling my opponents trying to get the ball back.  Sometimes I think that those were the first signs that I had a future playing rugby.  I would come home soaking wet and muddy from head to toe.  I felt like I was showing off how successful I was based off how dirty I could got.  I loved the aggressive part of soccer and being able to tactfully take me opponent to ground.  The next time I find myself playing rugby in the rain I am going to channel the child hood version of myself and enjoy the opportunity to just play.  I of course, will then beam with pride as I march off the field covered in mud. 
My Teammates and I after a muddy training day

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Go Kings!

Happy Birthday Dad!

Selfie time with the Family

Sisters (plus one)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Grateful for Friendship

I spent this evening with a few of my teammate watching the Women’s Premier Rugby League National Championship game.  We were cheering for the Berkeley All Blues, our former club team as they looked to take the National title.  Many of the ruggers I had played with and became close friends with when I played were Berkeley were on the field.  Although they lost it was so much fun to watch my friends and former teammates fight together for a National Championships. 

As we get close to Thanksgiving I couldn’t help but look around today and think how thankful I am for the friends I have made playing rugby.  When I moved to the bay area I literally didn’t know anyone, but my sister and brother in law.  I had to start from the ground up to rebuild my life and create a new support system.  I was overwhelmed by all the change in my life and struggling to cope.  Rugby has a very unique culture and is incredibly inclusive, which is what I truly love about it.  When I started playing rugby I had no idea that I would instantly gain a team full of friends.  The support that comes with being a rugby player does not just stop nationally, but is also internationally.  I know that wherever I go I will be able to find rugby players in that area and already have a common bond and an instant group of friends.  This Thanksgiving I am thankful for the friends I have gained and the bonds that continual get stronger.  I have proven to myself that no matter what road I take or what happens in my life I can always dig myself out and make the best of any situation. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Boys and Girls Club Halloween Party!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

When I first started playing rugby there were a couple things that I wanted to accomplish.  First, I wanted to make friends and get to know people in the bay area.  Second I wanted to have an enjoyable experience.  In the back of my mind I had hoped that I would be able to catch on to the sport quick enough to be given an opportunity to compete at a higher level, but that was not at the top of my goals.  Now that I am training full time for rugby at the Olympic Training Center it is easy to lose sight as to what I set out to accomplish and succumb to the pressures of being in a highly competitive environment. 

When I am looked back as a rugby player, whether I am released tomorrow or I make a team I want to be remembered as someone who was always kind, helpful and someone who was always able to keep perspective on the important things in life.  The reality is I have already accomplished what I have set out to.  I have made some amazing lifelong friends and I have been living an experience that I did not think I would ever have.  As long as I am able to remember those things I can get out on the field and just enjoy playing because I have nothing to lose.  As exciting as it would be to make another Olympic Team I am honored to be considered and even more honored that I was given a second chance to enjoy the experience.  Every day I work to keep myself accountable and wake up enjoying the opportunity I have been given to train and compete for Team USA. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Throughout the past couple years of my life I have experienced a significant amount of change.  It is still strange when September rolls around and I am not packing my bags for a 6 month bobsled tour.  Every winter I was fully immersed into a cold climate and grew accustom to digging vehicles out of the snow each morning.  The things I miss the most about bobsled tours are a lot of the things that at the time I thought were tedious and frustrating.  I was faced with many uncomfortable moments and was forced to adapt on a daily basis.  I learned how to put snow chains on the tires of our oversized truck and grew accustomed to maneuvering and driving it through difficult terrain.  I was forced to adjust my competition warmups based on the weather and available warm up surface.  I became very familiar with being uncomfortable. 

When I retired from bobsled and moved on, I was surprised to find that what was considered to be ‘normal’ life was significantly more uncomfortable than I had ever thought it to be.  I once again had to adapt and learn how to provide myself with things that previously were given to me.  I had to earn money in a more conventional way and I had to cook and clean for myself again.  Many things that people considered simple were very difficult to adapt to.  I had spent close to a decade of my life living in a sports bubble and became very comfortable living that alternative lifestyle. 

Now, every day I tie up my cleats and push my limits on the rugby pitch.  I have many days were I still feel incredibly out of place and uncomfortable, but just like everything else in my life slowly I am beginning to feel better.  I think I am learning that putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is truly the only way to grow and challenge yourself.  I will be a better and more adaptable person because of the situations I have had to adjust in. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Thank You Alaska Rugby!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Our coach assigned us to read Talent Code written by David Coyle would be enlightening and help us to understand and improve our learning curve.  Like myself many athletes on the Women’s National Rugby Team are very new to the sport.  It is imperative that as a team we accelerate our learning curve, so that we can be consistently competitive with the top teams in the world.   The Talent Code could prove to be a valuable asset to assist us in understanding how we learn so that we can improve our deep practice.

Recently we reviewed chapter five, which talked about motivation and how motivation is ignited in different people.  To me, the most interesting part of the chapter was when Coyle discussed the backgrounds and the birth order of world class sprinters.  The majority of the high level sprinters were close to the last born.  Coyle hypothesized that this fact was largely due to the face that the younger children were always behind their older siblings and needed to learn to be faster so that they were more able to catch up. 

I certainly relate to Coyle’s conclusion.  My older sister, Amber, is 13 months older than I am.  I remember as a child always trying to compete at the level she did.  A few times I was able to play up and age group and play with the older kids.  I was always a little behind the older kids, but was forced to learn at an accelerated rate so that I was able to be competitive.  I definitely had my moments that I struggled athletically to keep, but I believe it helped to push me and required a lot of hard work.  I would always race my sister and never seemed to be able to win, but it was a key point in motivated me to train and improve.  In retrospect I believe having a sibling slightly older than me enhanced my ability to learn. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Team USA Rugby Swimming Conditioning sessions in full swing!

Go Eagles!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ruck Cancer Ariel!

Join the USA Women's Sevens National Team and help Ariel Johnson fight Cancer!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Vintage Vest for a Vintage Athlete

This week I received a package from the lovely ladies at In the Arena.  I quickly ripped it open and was excited to see a puffy vintage L.L. Bean vest in perfect condition.  As I put on the vest I thought about how although this vest is not brand new it could definitely pass as if it is.  There is no thread out of place and it fits perfectly.  I am sure this vest has been worn countless times, yet I am confident it still has many more years of use in it.  I could not help but relate my vintage vest to my life as a vintage athlete. 

In 2014 after the Olympic Bobsled team was selected, I knew that although I was not selected I was not done competing.  At the time I had no idea what that meant, but I knew that I was in the best shape of my life and hungry to continue to compete.  I was sure I did not want to bobsled anymore, but I also knew that crossing over to a different sport at the age of 30 seemed unrealistic.  I thought about different sports that I may be able to compete in as I transitioned to a different part of my life.   Later that day as I was working out at the gym and I was approached and asked to play rugby.  I loved the people I met and the culture I was exposed to and knew this was the perfect sport to play as I searched for my next adventure.  At the time I did not know it was going to actually be my next adventure.       

I emailed Amory and In The Arena explaining that I was done with bobsled and that I was going to attempt to play rugby for the next 6 months.  I had not idea if I would be able to pick up rugby or if I would be able to have a chance to be good at it, but I knew that I wanted to at least try.  I had not expected In the Arena to support my next adventure, but was touched with the support I received.  My vintage vest proves that L.L. Bean is committed to quality products, just as In the Arena is committed to believing in and supporting their (vintage) athletes.
A year after picking up my first rugby ball I once again find myself as a full time athlete vying for a spot on the National Team.  At 32 years old I am one of the oldest athletes on the rugby pitch, but like L.L. Bean products and my vintage vest, I am hopeful that the quality of my performance will continue to improve as I age.  Rugby has been incredibly challenging, but has also given me an opportunity I had never thought I would have again. I am thankful and excited to have L.L. Bean and In The Arena experience it with me!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

When I meet kids at the Boys and Girls Club for the first time I usually ask them the same question; if you had a super power what would it be? So when I asked my new friend Isaac this question I was very touched when he responded that his super power would enable him to make food fall from the sky so no one would be hungry.  I really like asking kids about their super power because I feel like it opens up a conversation and gives insight into their life.  I have heard a variety of responses when I ask this question, but surprisingly a majority of the kids create a super power that allows them to help other people. 

However, I was concerned after Isaac told me his desired super power that he was having days at home without food.  I delicately talked with him about his home life and wanted to understand how he decided on his super power.  After talking with Isaac I learned a ton about his family and he even pitched his dad’s car washing business to me!  Isaac finally explained to me that he wanted the ability to create food because he had had a friend at school that would not have food at lunchtime.  Isaac said he shared his food with his friend daily and Isaac was concerned that others were also not given lunch.  He wanted to ability to produce food from the sky, so that people like his friend would not go without food.  The kids at the Boys and Girls Club constantly surprise me and keep me thankful that no matter what has been going on in my life, my basic needs have always been covered.  Isaac chose his super power based off putting his friend’s needs in front of his own desires.  He could have chosen any super power, but chose something that he thought would be able to help other people.  I am excited to continue to get to know Isaac and all of the other kids at the Chula Vista Boys and Girls Club.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I thought I would share an email I received from a former teammate that I recently stumbled upon:

I know I don't try to inspire you often other than yelling at you or trying to "toughen you up". But I wanted to share this with you. I like John Wooden quotes. I have never been more proud to have been associated with someone. I hope you can take the time to believe that this is what makes you successful...

John Wooden coined his definition of success as, “peace of mind, attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best that you are capable.” He continues, “If you make the effort to do the best of what you’re capable and improve the situation that exists for you, I think that’s success and I don’t think others can judge that. I think it’s like character and reputation. Your reputation is what you’re perceived to be. Your character is what you really are. And I think your character is much more important than what you’re perceived to be.”

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Many studies have shown that it can from 5,000 to 10,000 repetitions to learn a new skill.  When I first started playing rugby I began to keep track of approximately how many quality passes I made each day of training.  Because I never participated in a sport requiring throwing I knew that it would take me the upper end of repetitions to gain the muscle memory for this new skill.  Passing is only one element of rugby.  There are many new skills that I learn daily and work towards performing quality repetitions of each.    Fortunately I have had various athletic experiences and rely on skills I have learned to transfer over to aspects of rugby.  

Gymnastic was my very first sport and a platform that has enabled me to excel in different sports.  Gymnastic played a key role in establishing body awareness, strength and speed.  I transferred these skills initially to soccer and track and field and then eventually to bobsled.  Although rugby is a completely different type of sport then I have ever participated in I am hopeful that the repetitions and skills I have already learned will transfer over.