Jessica Lu: Embracing the Challenge, Defying Expectations

We’re excited to continue our new series, “Pioneers of the Pitch,” where we celebrate the groundbreaking athletes, administrators, coaches, referees and fans who’ve left their mark on rugby in the USA. Each installment takes you on a journey through the inspiring stories of rising stars and seasoned legends, both on and off the field. Join us as we shine a light on these exceptional individuals and uncover their tales of dedication, passion, and triumph.

In the realm of rugby, where stories of determination, passion, and groundbreaking achievements abound, Jessica Lu stands out as a true pioneer. Born in Albany, New York, and raised in Shanghai, China, Jessica’s journey from diverse sports to becoming a player in USA 7s Residency is nothing short of inspiring.

From a young age, Jessica dabbled in various sports, playing tag and soccer with boys during her elementary school days. Basketball and rugby, however, emerged as her favorites during her teenage years. Despite her initial inclination toward basketball, her height became a limiting factor for pursuing it at an elite level. In contrast, rugby captured her heart in college, offering a blend of diverse teammates, world-class coaching, and the physical challenges she craved.

In a family not particularly inclined toward athletics, Jessica’s journey into sports was a personal exploration. Encouragement from teammates and coaches played a pivotal role in shaping her athletic aspirations, steering her toward a path less traveled.

Balancing academics and sports became Jessica’s hallmark, providing a sense of equilibrium in the chaos of school, family, friends, and work. Breaking away from the traditional career trajectory, Jessica took a bold step, pausing her legal career to pursue rugby professionally in 2023. This decision, rooted in her newfound love for rugby, defied cultural norms but propelled her toward a path of self-discovery.

Currently on a full-time training schedule with USA 7s, Jessica emphasizes the importance of mental health in the high-pressure environment of elite-level rugby. Her training regimen involves a delicate balance between pushing physical limits and ensuring adequate recovery. The mental lesson of focusing on the present has been instrumental in navigating the rigorous demands of her sport.

Undoubtedly, Jessica’s journey hasn’t been without challenges. A significant setback occurred when she tore her ACL for the second time in 2019, raising doubts about her continued pursuit of elite rugby. Turning to academics during her recovery, Jessica ultimately rediscovered her passion for the game, reinforcing her belief in playing at the highest level.

One of the most memorable moments in Jessica’s rugby career was her first tour with Scion in Fiji in 2019. It was in this picturesque setting that she was told she had the potential to play at the international level, marking a turning point in her athletic journey.

Jessica’s advice to young athletes entering the world of rugby is to embrace the multifaceted nature of the game. She believes there’s a place for everyone in rugby, emphasizing the special bonds formed within the rugby community.

Looking ahead, Jessica envisions a growing popularity of rugby in the USA. She aspires to give back to the community, whether at the collegiate, national, or grassroots level. Her personal goal is to continue evolving as a player and proudly represent the USA on the international stage.

Beyond rugby, Jessica plans to return to a legal or policy-oriented career, utilizing her law degree. If she could have any superpower, it would be teleportation, reflecting her international upbringing and scattered network of friends.

Jessica Lu’s rugby journey is a testament to breaking conventions, embracing challenges, and pursuing one’s passion against the odds. As she continues to make her mark on the pitch, Jessica stands as a beacon for aspiring athletes, showcasing the transformative power of sports in shaping one’s identity and destiny.

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