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Bruce: World Cup countdown underway

My name is Stephanie Bruce and I'm a flyhalf for the USA Eagles. When I’m not “traveling the world” to play rugby, I work as a Sales Analyst for Riverbed Technology in San Francisco, CA. But that’s not why you’re reading this. For the next few months I’ll be giving you a voyeuristic glimpse of what it’s like to be an Eagle during our road to the World Cup this August.

To give you a quick landscape of womens rugby in the States, USA Rugby instituted the eight team Womens Premier League (WPL) in 2009 to better prepare national-calibre players for international play. At the end of the season, the top four programmes were located in New York, Boston, Minneapolis, and Berkeley. As you can imagine, its no small feat to assemble players from all corners of the country together, so we need to maximize every opportunity.

In the first days of the New Year, fresh from the holidays where traditional workouts were substituted by beach sprints and squatting small family members, the team convened at "Tigertown," the Detroit Tigers baseball spring training facility in Lakeland, Florida for a 10 day training camp which included two test matches against our northern rivals, Canada.

It was exciting to play in a professional setting. I think every one of us at one point thought, It would be amazing if I got to do this for a living! Some players try, by working as personal trainers at gyms, or with part time work just to pay the bills, or continuing their education for the flexible schedule and ample facilities (I suppose they do it for the academics too). Some have forgiving jobs that let them work remotely (like me!). They steal away every free minute during these assemblies to go check emails, finish up reports at night, and teleconference into meetings while walking back from practice. Many just get the glaring eye from disapproving bosses, but somehow keep their jobs by sweet-talking for unpaid leave.

Once at Tigertown, we relished the thought of waking up and only focusing at practices, taking ice bathes (loathe it or love it, man it works!), dissecting game tape and eating cafeteria food with teammates. In our downtime, we watched movies, read or joined in the increasingly frequent jam sessions so far consisting of a Djembe drum, a couple guitars, an ukulele, harmonica and kazoo. None of us are quitting our day jobs quite yet, but I think well be better prepared for the next assembly..

Florida is a famously warm destination for winter which made the weather that greeted us unfathomable. Panic gripped the state as citrus crops froze, iguanas fell out of trees and dozens of bundled up ruggers tore up the yellowed, frost-covered grass. But we weathered the first few days of camp and shook off sleet and the cobwebs that had accumulated since our last assembly at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego in November.

By Tuesday, the weather had gotten milder and the Eagles took to the pitch to face Canada in the first of the tests that week. Although we came out strong in the first half and lead 8-0 at the half, Canada punished our disciplinary mistakes, resulting in a disappointing 8-18 loss.

We count ourselves extremely lucky to have such formidable opposition in our backyard, and every match with Canada makes us better. Having done the hard work in the first part of camp, the time between tests was for refinement and refocus, which is what we did leading up to the Saturday match. The focus paid off, when we emerged from a scoreless first half to hold onto an 11-10 lead in the dying seconds of the match.

Looking forward to this spring in the World Cup ramp-up, our schedule unfortunately boasts no Six Nations campaign like the European teams, nor a cross-pond tour to New Zealand like our North American counterparts, but we look forward to several domestic assemblies to prepare us for another two test series in Canada in June. Until then, Ill continue to try getting a workout in before that 8:30 am conference call.