Rugby Dreams and Alpine Beginnings: Abby Vogel’s Athletic Odyssey

We’re excited to continue our series, “Pioneers of the Pitch,” where we celebrate the groundbreaking athletes, administrators, coaches, referees, and fans making 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. Whether honoring their contributions during their lifetime or posthumously, we shine a light on these exceptional individuals and uncover their tales of dedication, passion, and triumph.

Abby Vogel’s journey into the world of sports began at a tender age in Portland, Maine. Introduced to team sports at five, Abby’s first competitive foray was in Alpine Ski Racing, a sport she engaged with deeply from age twelve. Growing up, her athletic interests were diverse, spanning softball, basketball, skiing, and football, but it was rugby that ultimately captured her heart.

Her early experiences were significantly shaped by Sam Eddy, her middle school football and ski team coach. Eddy’s respectful and inclusive coaching style helped Abby find her niche and excel in team sports, setting a high standard and cultivating a fun, competitive environment. This foundational period instilled in her the confidence and passion to pursue contact sports.

Abby’s introduction to rugby came in her freshman year of high school, marking the start of a transformative journey. She fondly recalls playing with the Portland Women’s Rugby team as a pivotal experience, providing her with valuable exposure and a glimpse into the broader rugby community. This period saw her playing at the national championship in 2011 and traveling to Ireland, experiences that cemented her love for the sport and fueled her determination to continue playing.

Her parents’ unwavering support played a crucial role in her athletic career. Their belief in her abilities and their willingness to back her endeavors, whether it was signing waivers for her to play in the front row at fifteen or supporting her move across the country for college, provided Abby with the freedom to pursue her passion.

Abby’s training regimen is a balanced mix of activities she enjoys, contributing to both her physical and mental fitness. Yoga, weightlifting, cycling, and running are staples in her routine, complemented by her love for other sports like pickleball and soccer. Her mantra, “Make friends and have fun,” underscores her approach to rugby and life, ensuring she stays motivated and connected with her goals.

Preparation for competition involves a combination of goal-setting, packing, and mental relaxation, often capped with a team ritual of movie nights before games. On game days, she engages in dynamic warm-ups and personal rituals that get her in the right mindset.

One of her biggest challenges came just before the national championship in 2022 when she tested positive for COVID-19. The uncertainty and the fear of missing out were tough, but the support from her team helped her pull through, highlighting the importance of camaraderie and collective resilience.

Abby vividly remembers the 2011 nationals with the Portland Women, where she faced the formidable Sacramento Amazons. The physicality and intensity of that game left a lasting impression, inspiring her to push her limits and strive for excellence.

Balancing rugby with other life aspects has always been challenging for Abby. However, she manages it with a structured schedule, supportive friends, and self-reflection to ensure she stays grounded and focused. During setbacks or injuries, Abby leans on her support system, including regular therapy and consultations with sports psychologists, while framing challenges as opportunities for growth.

For young athletes starting in rugby, Abby’s advice is clear: embrace the fun, cultivate your mental game, and recognize your value in the sport. Looking ahead, she hopes to see rugby evolve towards less financial barriers, making it accessible to more talented athletes. She aspires to continue growing as a player, aiming to be a more physical presence on the field while taking care of her body for longevity in the sport.

Abby’s future is open-ended, but she envisions staying involved in rugby, potentially giving back to the sport that has given her so much. Inspired by the diverse experiences of her peers, she hopes to continue making an impact in whatever capacity feels right, embodying the spirit of a true Pioneer of the Pitch.

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