So with the 2012 season quickly approaching and sizing up the game locally and internationally, it's great to know that a Chicago rugger was name Rugby Magazine's Women's Rugby Play of the Year for 2011. I was able to talk to Pam Kosanke who was honored with the title who said it took her by surprise, but was definitely something nice and rewarding to hear. We talked about her rugby career, what she does to stay in top shop and what she thinks helped her get names player of the year.
Kosanke wasn't always fond of the game of rugby. She played softball in college in Michigan and had made friends with poeple who played rugby who peaked her interest in the game but thought that they were crazy for playing and wasn't interested in the sport at all. After college when she moved to Chicago she was looking for a sport to be involved with and called some friends to find out if there was a team in Chicago she could try out rugby with and they recommended North Shore Women's Rugby Club. She told me,
I didn't like it at first, I couldn't understand what the hell was going on or understand the concept of throwing the ball backwards to move forwards. And then it became fun to just kick, and hit and throw, do a little bit of everything. Took a long time to know what I was doing, and I still feel like I'm always kind of learning and progressing in the sport. It's one of the most maddening sports, I love that the game is changing constantly and you're always learning new strategy, and so you're always developing.
Konsanke has played for the USA Eagles for both 7s and 15s. She has earned nine caps for playing in 15s games and ten for her participation in 7s including the 2009 Sevens World Cup. Though she was names top player of 2011, she thinks that her come back this year her kicking was more on, she scored a lot of points and had more confidence and that is what has brought her game to another level of playing.
I don't think that fundamentally I did really well, I think I just figured out how to make an impact. I know know if it's because I'm smarter or more crafty because in terms of using my resources more effectively, because I have to. I also find field vision to be easier for me these days. I think setting people up and trying new things on the field , kicks and chases that I haven't done in the past. I just felt more comfortable and an obvious tactic I enjoyed playing around with I felt I played more gutsy and at the same time more efficient. When you make others around you play better everything is easier. There still isn't a time when i walk off the field an don't think I should have had that tackle or made that pass, so I'm always learning
At age 34, she is one of the more seasoned players and though she has taken time off in previous years to have surgery and is currently not playing to watch concussions she is not near retirement yet. She keeps in top physical shape while she is away from the game by meeting with personal trainer Tony Williams, she does speed training, follows USA Rugby's sprint and weight lifting programs. She likes cardio over weight training and has found that though many players benefit from CrossFit, it's not what she prefers and has found a boot camp that she says, "really kicks my ass, it's all about trying to break you!" She also uses Bally's because it fits into her budget. She also makes up her own circuit training and mixes it up whenever she can.
As for favorite travels, she says its more about the experience than the places she's been. She went to Fiji, to play in an early international rugby game, while women's rugby was still developing on that level, she found that female athletes in the USA had it pretty luck compared to other countries. Her coach at the time, Emill Signes, always made sure the team had a grass roots experience but staying with other teams, rugby families or on religious compounds. She remembers when she took a warm up lap in Fiji's Suva National Stadium that the women in the stands stood up and cheered for her. It was something that wasn't done before and the first time any women's team had played on the field. Konsanke said
It was a really interesting experience. It was a very male dominated culture and women's sports wasn't respected. When we came it was a really big deal to have us in the stadium. I got this special ceremonial jersey in recognition of that lap around the stadium and was told you've made women proud today. I thought it was such a big eye opener, and even then USA women and other developed countries have such an advantage and these other countries are really starting from scratch. It was like traveling back in time to the '60s or '70s
Konsanke is hoping to be back on the field soon and has gone to the new USA Olympic training facility in Chula Vista. She will not be a resident of the training camp as it is for younger players who are still developing, and she also has a stead career she is cannot just up and leave as younger players can. As for the 2016 Olympics? She said "We'll see as it gets closer."