Thursday, October 6, 2016


It's a classic story. Everyone who plays sports or has seen iconic sports movies knows the scene. It goes something like this:

The protagonist wants to get better, so they put in extra work.  This could be Timo Cruz from Coach Carter, doing push-ups and suicides on the sidelines to get his spot back on the team. In Rocky, this could be when he goes for runs in his gray sweat suit up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art-- throwing his hands up at the top as if he just conquered the world. This could even be Forest Gump running across the country, twice. All of these stories begin with the one player who does an extra something, alone. The stories end in triumph of a team, a group of people, or an ideal; something beyond the scale of an individual.

And then, there’s me. As a hooker abroad, I show up to practices 30-40 minutes early to practice my line-out throws. I stand back to the upright, take five large steps out, turn around, and launch. The uprights are covered in flakey white paint. Each time I hit the intersection of the cross bar, a white paint flake chips away and gently floats to the ground. Slowly uncovering a Bulls-eye of metal beneath. Conveniently, this bulls-eye is the height of Clare’s hands in a line-out. But, one can only throw so many line-outs before going insane. The first time I did this, I thought, wow this is so methodical, maybe I should write poetry about it. So I went home that day and tried to write poetry. After five minutes, I realized the folly. I really do not like poetry, unless it’s T.S. Elliot’s “The Wasteland” and I really do not like writing poetry. So that fad was short lived.

As the clock neared 17:00, I waited for others to show up for practice. I kept waiting, kept throwing line outs. As 17:15 rolled around with nobody on the field, I decided it was time to call it a day. I went back the next day, same thing.

The pitch, a place full of peace and solitude became a place of loneliness and disappointment. On and off for two weeks, I would show up and be stood up. It was time to make a change. Time for cross training.

I have still been trekking to the fields to throw, but supplementing with “Bon Physique”—the campus gym. Every day at 17:00, they have a yoga class. No, this is not where my sports movie becomes Eat Pray Love.

The first day I went to yoga, I expected the instruction to be in English. It’s a good thing I know how to count in Thai and I have “Poo Cow” (mountain) pose down because everything else was in Thai. Additionally, the instructor knew how to speak a little English and would say cat and cow poses in English (aside from my sarcasm, the instructor absolutely rocks, kicks my ass, and is so sweet). The other lost in translation moment of yoga has been the class set up. The yoga classes I have previously attended would have the instructor's mat perpendicular to the students. The students would then be in columns parallel to each other.

Here, the instructor and all student’s mats are parallel. Then, there is a line of beams that cut the studio in half. The yogis on the right face the beams and the yogis on the left face the beams. THIS MEANS THAT YOU GET TO STARE INTO THE SOUL OF THE PERSON NEXT TO YOU WHILE DOING YOGA. NOT RELAXING, JUST FREAKY.

So that was new. I have really grown to like yoga. It’s incredibly relaxing (once you get past looking into people's eyes), a great way to improve my flexibility and control, and add as many chattaronga’s as possible in my life.

Then, there’s the weight room. If some think Reily (Tulane Rec Center) is overpowered by testosterone between 15:00 and 18:00, they have not seen Bon Physique. The amount of grunting that goes on is bone chilling, ironic because there’s no AC.  So, I fit in perfectly!!! Joking aside, Bon Physique is no Reily, but I am very thankful to have a place where I can people watch and successfully cross train amidst chaos on the rugby practice front.

I’m not in an iconic sports movie, nor will I ever be. I don’t know how the story line is going to play out. Maybe I’ll stumble upon people practicing again, maybe not. Maybe the next time I play rugby with someone other than the uprights will be with my dad, Trevor, and Mitch on a Vietnamese beach in December. Who knows.


Stay tuned J

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thanks, Rugby.

Thanks, rugby. A phrase I more often than not use facetiously. Example: I have 7 toenails, thanks rugby. Even in Thailand, that phrase has been pretty prevalent, although I do have all 10 toenails at this moment. Below are my favorite Thanks, rugby moments of the past month.

Today, in a rural village, I pushed a truck out of the mud. Thanks, rugby.

We went to the rural recycling plant to gain information on local recycling procedures and volume. Yesterday, it rained close to 24 hours so today, there is a lot of mud—especially in the recycling man’s driveway. As Thailand goes, of course he wasn’t home so we had to leave. We drove there in two trucks and an ambulance. None of which could get out of the mud. The two community men we were with were pushing, but could not get enough leverage. I was sitting in the cars with the translators begging “Can I go!? Can I help?? I love pushing cars!!!!” They weren’t responding, so I pulled the aggressive rugby move and jumped out of the car and began to help. Shortly, after I was covered in mud, all of the cars were out of the driveway. Oh, how I missed the scrum, even if I was just flanking a truck.

Pushing cars is near and dear to my heart. First, there was that one time before our crawfish boil that we pushed Jess’ jeep in pairs down the road. Brit and I had a blast with that. And the other time. Good ol’ Jonesboro, Arkansas on the world’s largest cluster fuck of a trip. Of course one of the vans would run out of gas on the way to the pitch. So the team created a large motorcade of protection down the main strip of Jonesboro and pushed that Town and Country to the nearest gas station.

I have ripped 3 pairs of pants in the past 4 weeks. Thanks rugby.

Prior to this summer, I had never ripped a pair of pants before. It first happened when I foolishly made Silky T hop onto my shoulders to chicken fight Alex and Tavie. That day, I had to say bye to my favorite pants and a little bit of dignity.

In Thailand, I ripped my first pair of elephant pants at a temple. I sat down to rest my feet and they split. Boring, I know. BUT, I walked 12 miles that day and over half was with a big split in the booty that just kept growing. Thank you, quads. The next pair of pants—an extra-large (so average size) I wore out to the club. Uptown Funk came on and of course Mac and I had to hop onto stage to spread the Uptown love. I thought I could lunge up onto the stage no problem. I was wrong. Again, I was the gift that kept giving. The final pair of pants, I ripped on the squatty potty. At this point in time, I think I should probably start wearing dresses everywhere…but we all know that will not be happening anytime soon J

I cuddled my rugby ball on the night bus to Bangkok. Thanks rugby.
Beach rugby is my favorite, so I obviously had to bring my ball to the beach. It didn’t fit into my weekend backpack, so I had to carry it. We took the night bus to Bangkok, so of course I was going to sleep. I curled up in my blanket and cuddled the rugby ball as if it were the coziest stuffed animal in history. Pathetic? Yeah, I think so. But no regrets.

I cannot be a spectator. Thanks rugby.
This past weekend, I went to go watch the Freshman Faculty 7s tournament. I decided I would take the time to find a bit of solitude and watch alone on a bleacher. Soon after the first game started, I noticed that I was standing on the top of the bleacher, screaming, and pointing at people on the field. If I did this at home, people would at least understand me before commenting on the ridiculousness. Here, they had no idea what I was saying—I was just that crazy rugby girl once again. Man, did I have fun that day. These games were hilarious. My favorite moment was during a pretty epic breakaway. The ball carrier was gaining speed, but the chaser was really coming up on him. Instead of pulling the no-fail stiff arm, he just cold punched the chaser in the face. Of course, there was not penalty. The lack of penalty is especially funny when looking back on the championship game when Alex got called for punching.

I get a little bit too HYPED. Thanks rugby.

I’ve had to stop listening to music while I run. I was running to my pre-game playlist. Then, I realized that I was running with way too much swag and was jumping around. If there was any time that I looked like an obnoxious American, this would be it. There is absolutely no reason to be jamming to Kendrick, Chance, and Big Freedia at 7am.

I miss my crazy teammates. Thanks rugby.

Often, we are asked the question “what do you miss?”. Often the answers range from cheese to the seasons, especially autumn. My answer is always my teammates. It’s one thing to miss your best friend, but it’s another to miss 30.

I’m a hooker, but not that kind. Thanks, rugby.

“Hi, I’m a hooker”, my first day practicing with the men. I made sure they didn’t get the wrong idea. But they knew rugby well enough to know that I could then help with the scrum.

Thanks rugby, for keeping me sane, empowering me, and helping me integrate into Thai culture.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Do you like beer?

Per a study reviewed in class today, 2% of Thai university women get the recommended physical activity each day. I have been struggling to come to terms with this rate. When I walked up to practice today, there were 30 girls at the field. The girls were singing faculty songs and chatting with one another. Once practice began, they became the water girls. They were so kind and seemed incredibly happy, but why were they not on the field? Is women's participation in sports still a taboo here (especially contact sports)? Who actually enjoys pouring and delivering water to sweaty men? If there was a women's rugby team, would men be water boys? I don't think so. I'm bothered that 98% of university women are not getting enough exercise and I'm saddened that there is no action to change it. I hope by the end of my time in Thailand that there can be movement to create a women's rugby team. Even just one more girl on the pitch is a step toward increasing that 2%. It could be a catalyst to greater female empowerment.

And now, a more silly chronicle of today's experiences:

Each time I walk up to the pitch I feel like I'm going to soil my pants. And each time I lace up my boots, I feel like I'm at a nail salon. I know these men are talking about me, but I have no idea what they are saying. So what's to do other than smile and then prove them wrong on the pitch. There were two teams on the pitch today. I had no idea who I should play with, so I started with those that looked more inviting. We passed in a circle for a bit and then they said "thank you". I took that as my cue to leave. So, I hopped to the next set of men. They too thought I was nuts, but they liked my rugby ball so they let me play. These guys were the faculty of engineering. They were more equipped in the rugby world than the humanities men, but struggled more with English.

First, we warmed up with 5 laps of Indian Run's around the pitch. Oh boy, did I feel at home. One of my friends, who I call Ted, started to talk to me. The first question he asked on the jog was "Do you like beer?". It seems these boys know the first thing about rugby. Now I'm excited to teach them some rugby songs ;)

Next they ran a drill with kick off returns. They wanted to target me to see if I could catch. They anxiously awaited the test of my abilities, uncertain of the skills I may bring. I caught all three balls. After each catch, the boys and water girls would scream "AHHH AMMMMERRRICA". Again, I had gained my respect on the field. Many of the drills they did at practice were similar to the drills at Tulane. It was very welcoming. There was one drill which was more or less a continuous 2 on 3 drill, but these guys could not pick up on what to do. Everyone was screaming and laughing in Thai. It reminded me of the first time we ever did truck and trailer and we all threw a total fit--or that time Matt said do-do (S/o to Kayla for maintaining composure...not). It was a hilarious wreck. This was just more entertaining to watch because I had no idea what words they were speaking, but I knew everything they were trying to convey. It was one of those beautiful moments of universal understanding and compassion.

Finally, they stopped running drills and began a game of touch. After about two possessions, Ted came up to me and said "Hay, we play touch for fun. Not experts. It is fun, do not be so serious". For those NOLA touch players reading this, you have all trained me to take touch too seriously. Although I did not have the physical presence of Ormsby to give me the disappointed look for each poorly executed running line, I still felt the disappointment. But of course, there were the beautiful lines which made up of the prior. By the end of touch, I tried my hardest to emulate those laughing around me. Instead of getting angry at mistakes, I giggled. It was probably the most bizarre sounding giggle on earth. A giggle with undertones of extreme frustration and a poorly executed bubbly facade. Let's be honest, it probably sounded like I was making fart noises.

I had so much fun with the guys today. As I was leaving, they all added me on Facebook. Hi guys, if you're reading this!!! Then told me to come to practice at 5am tomorrow. That will not be happening, ever. But, I will keep going in the afternoons. Day after day, I am amazed by the rugby community. Internationally, each rugby player is kind, welcoming, and looking to further the sport. I'm thankful for the guys at KKU that treat me like an equal and the opportunity to play the sport I love on foreign soil.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Rucking Awesome.

My rugby friend, Kha, texted me saying that there would be rugby today at 5pm on the fields. If I was going to play, it was now or never.

In the beginning days in Khon Kaen, we had lessons on Thai customs and how to be culturally appropriate. Girls and guys don't touch unless they are dating. We were told that if girls went to play soccer with the boys, they would not pass the ball. To this, I thought fuck it, I'm playing.

At Khon Kaen University, there are 40,000 students. Each major has a building which is called a faculty. They have faculty games where students play different sports against other faculties to see which faculty is supreme.

Kha texted me saying he could not play today, but others would be playing. He would come by the field to meet me, introduce me to others, and play later in the week.

I put on my rugby shorts, grabbed my cleats and left. I took a deep breath, walked up to the fields, sat on the bleachers, and laced up my boots. There were about 20 men on the field and some girls on the bleachers. Here, I stepped into an unknown abyss of shattering cultural norms and playing the game that I love.

I walked up to the group of guys under the uprights and asked to play. They handed me a ball and I began passing to some guys. The told me they were the faculty of humanities and had been playing rugby for a week. I took a deep breath and knew despite the language barrier, I could do this. If I can coach mini rugby, I could coach Thai men. The guys circled around me and looked at me like I was a prodigy and could turn a team of non-ruggers into champions.

This team consisted of all sorts of people. One player, Gong, was in his school uniform and played while wearing his satchel, some were basketball players, some had never played a sport before, and some just sat in the grass. If this were Dodgeball, we were the Average Joe's on steroids. But these men had the kindness of the Average Joe's as well. They thought I did not bring a water so they bought me one. They tried to practice their English with me and I would practice Thai. We exchanged many laughs and smiles, as that was a much more effective method of communication than broken languages.

I told them they could ask me anything about rugby and I could help to the best of my ability to improve their skills. Of course, the first thing they wanted to know was how to drop kick (to my teammates: yeah, that's right. Start laughing now). It was time to fake it, 'til I made it. I grabbed the ball, bounced it on the hard ground, and whiffed. Some could say I pulled a Hannah Hoover. That ball made zero contact with my foot. I was a prodigy turned fool within the matter of seconds. I tried to play it cool, and tried again. Thankfully, it was a decent boot.

Next, they asked how to ruck. I had one guy place the ball, one act as the opposing team and then there was me...I don't think the boys thought I was actually going to ruck them. I went in at half speed and accidentally laid the kid out. This is the moment that I gained their respect on the field, something I did not expect to happen.

Next we worked on running lines and catching the ball at pace. Finally, they asked for help in the scrum (thankfully, it's only 7s, so much simpler). I explained to them how to bind properly, get low, and drive. When they scrummed down with me, they were awestruck at how low I expected them to get. Alex and Kate, you would have died laughing at their pain. They were shocked by my strength (So were the pants I ripped last night--I've now officially ripped two pairs of elephant pants in Thailand. Yes, yes, the baggy pants. I'll stop buying pants and keep doing squats). I do not think they have the same love for the front row as we do.

Finally, it was time to scrimmage. I thought it was just going to be touch, lordy was I wrong. It was a full blown game of tackle rugby. Their tackles could be described as a koala jump and a dog dragging a stick across the ground.  I will be avoiding contact like the plague until the tackling form makes a 180. But, the boys surprisingly kept passing to me, were excited to scrum down with me as the hooker, and play a game of rugby (kind of).

I'm thankful for these guys restoring my faith in the international rugby community, their kindness, and inclusivity. Here's to a semester of experiences, foolishness, and (wo)men's rugby.