Q & A with Phaidra Knight
By Doug Coil & Bryan Cornelis
Feb 28, 2015
RTS: What drives you to excel and make the tremendous sacrifices that you do?
PK: Purpose and positivity are what drive me to excel. Many things fall under those umbrellas – my immediate family, my friends, the younger generation that, collectively, have not quite realized the power of hard, persistent work. I sacrifice because that’s naturally what happiness is to me. I believe it’s what we are all meant to do – to give of ourselves for the greater good.
RTS: What has contributed to your longevity as an athlete?
PK: There are several components that have contributed to my longevity as an athlete. Good genetics have certainly been on my side. Over the years, I have continually sought out ways to improve my nutrition more and more. Vegetable juicing has certainly been an excellent addition to the regiment. Consistent hydration has also played a significant role. Incorporating stretch/yoga/meditation and more “yin” activities into my training have brought balance to my mind, body and spirit.
RTS: How did your omission from the Women’s 7s World Cup in 2009 influence you moving forward?
PK: Although my omission from the Women’s 7s World Cup in 2009 was one of the biggest disappointments in my life, it was also one of the best things to happen to me. It was the punch in the nose that I needed to begin the process of checking my ego and exploring other dimensions of who I was. Looking back, I recognize that it has helped me to be fearless in the eye of the storm and be present at all times to experience life. Playing international 7s has challenged me like nothing else in the world. I had no other choice but to pick my self up (with the help of some awesome supporters), dust off, and jump back on the horse. It taught me a valuable lesson to work smarter, gave me the capacity to work harder, and most importantly, softened me so that I can really enjoy every moment of this experience. It’s about the journey.
RTS: What has been the most challenging part of transitioning from 15s to 7s?
PK: The most challenging part of transitioning from 15s to 7s has been the discipline on defence and the overall pace of the 7s game. As a flanker, my role was to wreak havoc on the ball carrier and disrupt. For the most part, I could be a free radical because there were 8 more players who could fill in the spaces. This is not the case in 7s. The pace of the game over the last 4 years has increased a great deal. There is the need for much quicker reaction time. Although I believe that my 15s skills are transferable and very useful in the 7s game, I am still learning how to balance all of these with an increased work rate.
RTS: You’ve been a role model many years for Women’s rugby. How has the perception of Women’s rugby changed and what needs to change?
PK: For the small percentage of Americans outside of the rugby community who are even aware that women play rugby, the perception is (and has likely always been) that these women are bad a**. The perception of women’s rugby over the past 15-20 years within the rugby community has changed pretty drastically. The stereotype years ago was if you were a woman who played rugby, particularly club rugby, you were a likely a lesbian trying to “recruit” more lesbians. Fact or fiction, this was the majority (or at least the most vocal) consensus. I, personally, did not share this perspective. Fast forward to 2015, the perception has dramatically changed and expanded. Like basketball and soccer, it’s a sport that attracts girls and women from all backgrounds and orientations. With the inclusion of seven’s into the Olympics, the standard of athleticism has certainly increased, influencing a more positive perception. I believe it deserved the respect 20 years ago that it’s just starting to receive now, but there is still a ways to go. Inequities still persist for American women rugby players, particularly at the club and international level. It is critical that entities that serve as the face of American rugby, like USA Rugby, continue to increase exposure of the women’s game, find creative ways to market key personalities within the game both past and present and do so twice as much. There is a great disparity between men’s and women’s rugby, so simply allocating resources 1 to 1 will not eliminate the imbalance.
RTS: In what ways do you touch and inspire others?
PK: I believe that’s a question for others to answer, honestly. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s my resilience and work ethic. Everything I do at this point in my life, I do with full conviction, giving 100% of myself in order to reach ultimate fulfilment in the journey. At the end of the day, I have peace of mind knowing that I have done all within my power to reach my goal.
RTS: After this quest to become an Olympic athlete is over, what goals do you have in the future?
PK: My goals for the future are to become a business mogul, TV/media personality, and philanthropist.