Rugby World Rugby Hall-Of-Famer Teaches Leadership Skills To Incarcerated Youth Through Sports

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Phaidra Knight, a retired rugby union player who was a member of the United States national team from 1999 to 2017

Molly Kirk

Reported in 2018 by the Prison Policy Initiative, statistics show that on any given day, nearly 53,000 youth are held in detention facilities. Recidivism is calculated on a national level. However, it is up to each state’s discretion on how they track juvenile recidivism. The 2018 Bureau of Justice Statistics states that 44% of released prisoners were arrested during the first year following release, and an estimated 83% within nine years. Based on these numbers, there’s a high probability that youth convicted of an offense will be repeat offenders. Knight’s initiative is part of the solution to help decrease these statistics.

“That’s been a vision of mine for many years,” Knight expresses, “to really make a difference and give an opportunity to particularly the incarcerated population. We can give them a different lease on life and provide them with a great network that they can connect with a tribe community. Whether they decide to play rugby or not, they have a connection, a network, to good people to take them under their wing.”

This initiative has been over two decades in the making. It began while Knight attended law school. She has always been athletic, but during undergraduate school, she decided to focus on her studies rather than play a college sport. “I had this urge to reconnect with team sports,” she explains. “I met a lady at a law school party who invited me to come to a rugby training. At that point, I had never heard of rugby. I didn’t know what it was. She sold it as it was similar to football but kind of like soccer.” After attending a training, Knight knew this was the sport she wanted to be involved with.

Phaidra Knight being inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame

Phaidra Knight

“It was a perfect balance at the time for me,” she smiles. “I was in my first year of law school. I was burnt out with school in general. I really questioned going to law school, but it was all I had really planned after I graduated undergrad. So, I stuck with the plan. I wasn’t going to quit but I was contemplating quitting. Finding rugby connected me with my tribe…that completed the puzzle for me, helping me get through law school.”

She played for the U.S. national team from 1999 to 2017 where she made three appearances in the Women’s Rugby World Cup. Also, in 2010 Knight was named the U.S.A. Rugby Player of the Decade.

Rugby became more than just a sport for Knight. “It was an opportunity to kind of work out a lot of emotions that I was unaware of that I had harbored over a lifetime,” she shares, “things

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