Rugby – A Lesson on the Pitch and in Life

Makenna Flynn

Makenna Flynn

Staff Writer

In August 2020, I began at the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University. The spirit of Thunderbird has long been tied to the men’s rugby team. Black and white photos of men rucking and scrumming line the hallways and elicit pride in our international school. This year, I am proud to share that six Thunderbirds will be playing alongside the Phoenix Women’s Rugby Team.

Thunderbird Rugby Team, 1986. Image provided by Valk-Feeney, Carpenter

This family of ruggers begins its tale with two Thunderbird women expressing their interest in the game. Through the support of the Thunderbird men’s rugby president and guidance from a current student and veteran player, we found our way to the Phoenix Women’s Rugby Team.  

What started out as two eager Thunderbirds turned into six incredibly strong and hard working Thunderbird women out on the pitch three days a week, with three of us filling roles on the Phoenix Women’s Rugby Executive Board. 

 

The practices told the story of dedication, with each pass spinning a little better and every tackle hitting a little harder. Out of six players, five of us were rookies to the game, and, despite our nerves, we grew quickly. 

Phoenix Women’s Rugby Team on a Sedona hike, 2021 (From left to right): Janvi Shah, Kaylee Eskeli, June Obata, Payleigh Behan, Madisen Miller, Nile Bunger, Carpenter Valk-Feeney, Keina Crawford, Beca Iannone, Taylor Didesch, Makenna Flynn

But the best part, worth all of the sprint sets and killer fitness days, was the team. 

I knew I was lucky to be there at our first practice when our chant ended in “Family.” The women I play next to are some of the best people I know. A scientist who spends every day fighting for a healthier planet and would take hours teaching their teammate how to knit. A player who defies the limits, giving 150% to everything she does and still baking everyone a platter of Christmas cookies or a pitcher of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. A leader who epitomizes commitment, doing whatever is needed when advocating for our new team. And so many other women I play with who have done more than teach me how to scrum or ruck. They’ve taught me to be a better teammate, a better person, and an authentic me. 

My advice: if you want an enriched life and a community of badass women, find your nearest pitch and grab a rugby ball. 

Additional Notes:

Follow Makenna Flynn on Linkedin to stay updated on new article postings and the Thunderbird Women’s Rugby Journey. 

Check out the Phoenix Women’s Rugby on Instagram – @phxwomensrugby

Show your Thunderbird Spirit! Would you or your business want to sponsor us? Contact our fundraising chair at Thunderbird, Carpenter Valk-Feeney. 

Hamilton, Chuck. “Rugby Players in 1984” ASUNow, https://asunow.asu.edu/20160317-global-engagement-thunderbird-rugby-club-marks-40-years-scrums

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