Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 26, 2013

Amanda Street tackles the rigors of rugby

Former Princeton athlete aims for U.S. national team

PRINCETON — Rugby is a mysterious, “foreign” sport to a majority of area residents, but Amanda Street has adopted the rough-and-tough game. And vice versa.

Street, a 2005 graduate of Princeton Senior High School, is in the “pool” of 60 women being considered to play for USA Rugby in the 2014 World Cup and perhaps the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

At Princeton, Street played soccer and basketball, and “ran track for a little while,” she said. She then played basketball for Shepherd University.

Her high school and college sports competitions were good preparation for the demands of rugby. But just up to a point.

“When I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, I still played basketball,” she said. About four years ago, “I was playing a pickup game at the YMCA. As it turns out, the Raleigh rugby coach was watching and suggested I try out.”

“I said, ‘I don’t know anything about rugby.’ He said, ‘Oh, come out. You’re athletic, you can run and catch a ball.’ I went out just for fun, and it turned out I was pretty good at it.”

And the differences?

“I never had to tackle anybody in high school, and never had to be tackled,” she said. “The biggest difference is the physicality, and the mentality to have to tackle and be tackled, and get absolutely no rest and be able to fight through very intense scenarios.

“You’re just beat, and you have to push through it. I have never been in a sport that hard.”

“You don’t have substitutes like you do in other sports. If you’re subbed out, you can’t go back out onto the field. ... A lot of times, if you’re a key player, you have to play the entire game.”

Rugby is played on a field, or pitch, ideally 70 by 100 meters, not including the end zones — a little larger than a football field. The ball is shaped like a fat football, and is advanced by running with it, tossing it to teammates, or kicking it.

Five points are awarded for a “try” when a player touches the ball down in an opponent’s in-goal area.

There are goal posts on each goal line, with the crossbar three meters — almost 10 feet — above the ground. After a successful try, a team attempts to add on two extra points by kicking the ball over the crossbar.

Rugby Sevens, with seven people on a team at any one time, has been accepted into the 2016 Olympic Games, scheduled for Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Another variety of the sport, named for the number of players on-field per team, is the 15s.

Street said she has played competitive rugby for a year and a half. She plays the wing position, usually away from the center of the field.

“The wing is typically is fastest player on the field,” Street explained. “We’re responsible for using our speed to get the scores. ... Our teammates are doing a lot of the work, though we get the credit.”

“Of course, everybody plays defense as well. At the wings, if we get beat, it usually results in us getting scored on, so we have to be quick, to get to the ball.”

“Wings have to have hands skills, and we also use our feet. You’ve got to be good at catching and kicking, and you’ve got to be fast in order to play that position."

“Being a former basketball player and a soccer player really set me up for success in that position.”

Street first played for the Raleigh Rugby Football Club that won a Division II national championship in 2011. That led to her being picked for the “select-side” regional all-star team, the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union.

“Basically they pull from each club team and put together an all-star team,” she said. “I was picked up from that team to try out for the United States rugby team, and have been going to camps and working with the national team coaches.”

She is in the running for both the 15s and the Sevens national teams, but has not locked in a roster spot yet.

“There’s a big pool of players they choose from,” she said. “They get to 60 players and that’s the team for this year.”

The national organizing group is now eyeing August 2014.

“They’re going to prepare 16 players as though we’re going to be playing in the 2014 World Cup,” she said. “I don’t know, yet, whether I’ll be one of them ... but this next year will be a very important year.”

Her personal goals are “maintaining my fitness, honing my skills and maturing as a player — not being afraid of the competition,” she said.

She qualified for the United States “Elite Sevens Division” team that went to the Las Vegas Invitational in February. She traveled to Los Angeles earlier this month to play the national team of France in a three-test series.

Six weeks from now, the United States will compete in The Nations’ Cup in Greeley, Colo., playing against England, South Africa and Canada. She said she should know “shortly” if she will be competing in that tournament.

“We travel a lot,” she said. “I’m currently not under contract, but I travel to Chula Vista (Calif.) quite often to train with the team.”

She said about her goals, “The 2016 Olympics is a possibility — but right now my sights are set on the 2014 World Cup.”

Street works as an education specialist at Wake Med Health and Hospitals in Raleigh. She said, “I do a lot of diabetes education and counseling, and work with the cardiac rehabilitation program.”

As if that weren’t enough, she said she also has “lots of clients” as a personal trainer.

“I teach cross-fit at a gym here in Raleigh, Cross-Fit Invoke,” she said. She explained the program as “sort of like competitive exercise. It includes a series of gymnastics moves, Olympic weightlifting and cardiovascular activities.”

And when she needs advice, a familiar voice from her high school days in Princeton helps her out — Debbie Ball, the now-retired girls basketball coach for whom Street played for four years as a Tigerette.

“Even after I left Princeton, I stayed in touch with her,” Street said. “She brought out the best in me. I still reach out to her when things get difficult, as they will for anybody involved in athletics. She always is ready to give me good advice.”

“Some things will never change.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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