Play Rugby USA

US Women’s Rugby Foundation Grant report from Shamira Robles, Denisse Zambon and Gionanna Cruz

Play Rugby USA foreword:

Because of USWRF funding, three girls from Bronx, New York were able to participate in an internship with youth development nonprofit Play Rugby USA and attend the Junior All American Regional Camp in Atlanta, Georgia last March!

High School juniors Denisse Zambon and Shamira Robles, and senior Gioanna Cruz have been playing rugby for less than two years, ever since their high school, Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists in Bronx, NY formed a team in spring 2012. Each has excelled as a player in the short time they have been playing. Gioanna was named as a High School All-American and earned a scholarship to attend American International College in the fall, Denisse was tournament MVP at a Regional All-Star Tournament in Pittsburg, PA.. Despite only having played 7-a-side rugby, all three girls along with 6 of their PRUSA-Academy team-mates made the Empire City 15 a side all star team. They all look forward to continuing their 15-a-side rugby experience, in college.

USWRF funding enabled PRUSA to engage Denisse, Gioanna, and Shamira in our internship program as Youth Development Mentors at Play Rugby USA program sites in New York City. They learned how to teach young children life lessons through non-contact rugby games and coaching methods that build self-esteem and teamwork. We applied their internship ‘pay’ towards them attending the Women’s Junior All-American Camp with team head coach Danielle Miller in Atlanta. While none of the girls were selected to U20’s squad that competed in the Nations Cup this summer, they showed a lot of promise and hope they might be selected in 2014!

Below is a short account from each of the girls of their experience this past season:

Shamira Robles

“I would like to start off by mentioning how grateful I was for this opportunity. Over the spring, I had the opportunity to visit and help coach rugby at a school in the Bronx. I realized that I became more friendly and social with people after this experience. I learned so many different skills, but the most important skill is to communicate and listen. Everybody can talk on the field—just as important is to teach listening.

My experience at the U20 camp was definitely memorable. I always strived and have been hard working but this camp made me want to push harder. The camp changed my attitude towards rugby. I used to go on the field with only one mindset and that was to win. All I expect from myself now is to have fun and just make it count.

As for my future rugby goals, I just plan on playing this sport as long as I have legs. I want to play rugby in college to grow as a player and person. I do dream of one day playing for the national team and traveling around the world."

Gioanna Cruz

“I was involved with mentoring the middle school students in my school. I was able to be a role model for them, which made me think a lot about how I could help them become better. It also helped me think a lot more about how I played and how the drills that they would do were drills that I also did, and could improve on. It was also fun to teach younger kids about rugby because I got to see how it became an influence in their lives and how they enjoyed it as much as I did.

My experience at the U20 camp was amazing and awesome. I learned how to play 15s. I learned the difference between the backs and the forwards and how it's different from when you play 7's. I learned about the different positions and what my job is as a forward. The atmosphere was very friendly. Everyone was very kind and welcoming. Everyone got along quickly and we all made friends. It was an unforgettable experience.

My future goal is to be in Olympian and play with the USA Eagles, but I have to take the steps needed to reach that goal. Since the U20 camp, I have had the honor and privilege of playing in Colorado at the High School All American Stars and Stripes Game, which has been my greatest accomplishment so far.”

Denisse Zambon

“The U20 camp helped me to better understand the game of rugby. It showed me how rugby can be transformed from a game where speed is key, to a game where strength is just as necessary. However it also showed me that no matter what, rugby is a mental game. During the U20 camp, I not only learned about 15's or how the forwards and the backs should be positioned, I learned how to socialize and to communicate with people that I am not used to.

During the spring, I was a Youth Development Mentor at my school, Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists. I helped out the middle school rugby team with drills and practice. I took everything I knew from the U20 camp to help to improve the youngest player to understand the game and also to develop their skills.

My future rugby goals are to participated in the U20 Camp and the Regional All-Star Tournament again next year and to become a High School All American. However, my main goal is to get into a good college get a degree and play rugby there. I also aim to become a USA Eagle and participate in the Olympics.

After the U20 camp, I achieved some success as a player. I participated in the 2013 Regional All-Star Team 15's, where I was named tournament MVP. My high school team finished its second straight undefeated season, in which I scored 220 points in 6 tournaments. During the summer, my club team Play Rugby USA Academy earned first place in the Empire GU Summer 7's Series.”

Gioanna Cruz, Shamira Robles, and Denisse Zambon

(Left to right) Gioanna, Shamira, and Denisse in the airport, heading back from the JWAA Regional Camp in Atlanta.

Denisse Zambon at practice

Denisse at youth rugby practice last month.

The girls circle-up at practice

The girls circle up with their Academy team-mates and our elementary school players at rugby practice last month.

The girls with their Academy teammates

The girls with their Academy team-mates Champions of this summer’s inaugural High School Sevens Series.

Empire City All-Stars

The girls with their Academy team-mates representing the Empire City All Stars in Pittsburgh, PA Regional All Star Tournament.