Undoubtedly there were a lot of happy Rugby Sevens players across the globe with the announcement that it will be included in the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games. The Rio 2016 Olympic Games will mark the debut for Rugby Sevens. Rugby hasn’t been seen in the Olympic Games since 1924, with the U.S. men’s team taking gold.
Twelve men’s and twelve women’s teams from around the world will debut Rugby Sevens in Rio and Team USA is looking to repeat its 1924 performance as both the men’s and women’s teams have already qualified. If you’re not familiar, this game could look a bit crazy. Most in the U.S. are unfamiliar and have absolutely no idea what scrums, sin bin, yellow cards and ruck and counter rucks are, never mind how the game is played. Here to help us sort it all out is Baylee Annis, Women’s National Team Rugby player and member of the USOC Athlete Career and Education Program. In addition to training full-time in Rugby, Baylee works as a Rugby Ambassador for UB Sports as well as an Assistant to the Executive Director for the Adirondack Center for Writing.
Baylee, can you tell the uninitiated a little bit about what they will be seeing when they watch Rugby? What is the goal of the game and how is it played?
Rugby is a contact sport where the ball travels down the field by passing laterally, running, and kicking. Points are scored by touching the ball to the ground — called scoring a “try” — in the try zone for 5 points, a conversion kick for 2 points after scoring a try, or a drop-kick in live play for 3 points. Fifteen players take the field for each team, and the field is 70m wide and 100m long, plus the two try zones, which are typically 10m deep.
What impact will the introduction of Rugby Sevens to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games have on Rugby in the United States?
The impact of re-introducing rugby into the Olympics puts the sport on center stage. I think Americans will take interest in the finesse, physicality and athleticism portrayed by both the men’s and women’s teams. It would be great to see American fans and organizations support our national teams and the creation of professional domestic leagues for men and women rugby players. The effect of Sevens Rugby will certainly be felt worldwide. Like many other recently inducted Olympic sports, Sevens Rugby will create a possibility for many smaller countries to take the podium over countries that typically dominate.
How did you get started in the sport and do you have any pre-game rituals?
I started playing rugby officially when I was 13, but the sport has been part of my and my family’s lives since I can remember. Both my parents found the sport in their 40’s and continue to be involved in playing and rugby administration to this day.
I visualize before every game, even during fun, non-competitive games, ending with a recollection of all the fields I’ve played on, and the field I’ll step on that day. It really helps calm my nerves. I like to listen to the preparation my team and tend to not use music. My pre-game meal varies, but almost always includes berries and snap peas if they are growing in-season.
Tell us a little bit about the camp you have coming up in January?
The camp in January is the National All-Star Competition (NASC) and is a weeklong event with 200 invited players that simulates going on tour. We play inter-team games to gain confidence and experience in high-level competitions. This NASC is a selection tool for the pool of players that the Women’s National 15s Team will take to the 2017 World Cup.
Why is it important that you can work part-time while training?
Currently, the only rugby players in the United States who can play professionally are those in contract with the Olympic Sevens teams. As I play 15s Rugby primarily, we don’t have the financial support to be paid to play full-time, nor does our budget allow our costs be covered for travel and tryout camps. That means we incur costs for our training and camps throughout the year. Our team is located across the country and we train most of the year on our own, and a large part of creating a permanent rugby lifestyle is to find work that is flexible for our travel throughout the year.
Tell us a bit about your two part-time jobs?
I took a part-time online position with UBsports.com as Rugby Ambassador in July, which includes social media work, blogging, and working with National Governing Bodies to support athlete development. My second position is with the Adirondack Center for Writing, which is located in the Adirondack Park in upstate New York, and I develop writing programs and events across the region. Thankfully, my employer has created a really flexible position for me and I’m able to telecommute for the periods of time when I am training in areas across the nation.
What traits do ruggers have that would help them excel in the business world?
Rugby players are immensely welcoming, genuine, and creative people. We’ve learned to appreciate men and women playing a contact sport, and we know how to commit to our passion. Most importantly, we are hard workers, on and off the field. All of these qualities make for amazing business people, and great employees.
What are your short-term and long-term goals in work and in Rugby?
In rugby, my goal is to stay in the Women’s National Team Pool after January, and to play for the United States in the World Cup in 2017. My work goals are ever changing. I’d love to continue with the positions I hold now, possibly expanding into rugby administration goals at some point. I’m also excited about the prospect of working with the center for writing long-term and expanding some of our programs and teaching some writing courses.