An interview with USA Eagle Alicia Washington
GoPlay Sports caught up with USA Eagle Alycia Washington to answer some questions about her rugby journey, how the sport has helped her grow over the years and why she thinks it's an excellent sport for young women athletes.
When Alycia isn't representing her country with the oval ball, she coaches at University of New Haven and Simsbury High School. She plays club rugby for New York Rugby Club and when she's not coaching, playing or reffing, she represents GoPlay as a Regional Coordinator.
How did you first get into rugby and what inspired you to give it a try?
When I first got to college, it seemed like such a huge place, and I was looking for a way to make it feel a bit smaller. I also didn't want to gain the "freshman 15" so when my friend suggested rugby to me it seemed like a natural fit. Then I went to one practice and I was hooked. The team was so welcoming, I knew immediately that I found a home with them.
When did you first get aspirations to play at the highest level?
Honestly, during my first year or so of playing, I had no idea there were options to play after college. One of my opponent's coaches nominated me for a USA U20 tryout and that really opened my eyes to how big the rugby community is. Once I got selected for that squad, I was even more motivated to keep improving and I set my sights on making it to a World Cup.
What’s it like wearing the crest of the USA Eagles? How does it make you feel to represent your country?
It is truly the greatest honor. Getting my first jersey brought me to tears. How often do dreams come true? I just hope to always make my country proud whether I'm in the jersey or not. The crest may be visible on the jersey but, I am also carrying my family, my teammates, the teams I coach and all of the sacrifices and compromises they have made on my behalf with me all the time.
How do you view the responsibility of representing the USA in an international context?
It truly is a profound responsibility that is so much bigger than myself. I always try to remember that I am never just representing myself. It took a village to get me where I am today. Making that village proud is my motivation and I view that responsibility as the strongest source of motivation.
What are some misconceptions people might have about what it’s like to be on the national team?
A lot of people think that to be at this level you have to be very serious and regimented every minute of the day. We are here because we love the game and enjoy playing. We might lead slightly different lives and we are probably more conscientious about our habits but we are still just rugby players that enjoy off days and cheat meals like everyone else.
What opportunities and coaching along the way allowed you to get to where you are in your playing/coaching career?
Once I realized how big the rugby world is, I decided it was about time to take a trip with my college team during my senior year. It absolutely changed my life. I started looking for more and more ways to travel which led me to play for the Midwest Thunderbirds and I kept pursuing more ways I can see rugby all around the world.
You recently coached the Simsbury High School Girls team to the CT State Championships. When did you start coaching and what inspired you to get into it?
Rugby has given me so much that I felt I needed to find ways to give back so when I started working at The University of New Haven in 2014, the same year that they started their women's rugby club, I felt compelled to share my experience with them. In my third year with New Haven, I took on a coaching position with Simsbury High School. I have learned an incredible amount from the players and other coaches. They are all so inspiring and supportive and have contributed more than they'll ever know to my rugby career.
Would you recommend rugby as a sport for young women? If so, what opportunities would rugby give them that they couldn’t get playing other sports?
Absolutely! Rugby is both the ultimate team and individual sport. I have gained so many skills that will help me in everyday life like communication and resilience. But most of all, the knowledge that I have a global family of ruggers is incredible. The welcoming environment I have received in every country where I have played is inspiring and humbling. I don't think you can get the same experience in any other sport, especially as a woman.
Why do you work for GoPlay? Why is travel such an ingrained element of rugby culture?
I work for GoPlay because it provides exactly what i think the world needs right now: an outlet to understand and become engaged in other cultures. Rugby laws (for the most part) are universal and this common thread connects us all so i believe we are so inclined to travel because we want to express and show respect for this connection to our brother and sister ruggers around the world.