Rugby changes lives of underserved girls in Los Angeles I Annual Salute to Women in Sports

In partnership with the Women In Sports Foundation, ICEF Rugby is more of the more unique sports programs in the country, teaching girls and women from underserved areas of Los Angeles to play rugby and taking them all over the world in the process. Watch the full Women’s Sports Foundation's Annual Salute to Women in Sports presented by Yahoo Sports here.

Video Transcript

- People ask me all the time, like, oh, you play rugby, like, are you sure? Like, you're so small, and I'm like, yes, because I can.

- This program has provided an opportunity for these kids in these marginalized communities to play a sport that they've never played, to probably play a sport that they've never even heard of.

- The vision was to create a really impactful footprint in the south Los Angeles community, and that would involve huge amounts of leadership development opportunities in a predominately underserved area.

- You take a group of youth, and you open them up to opportunities and give them the opportunity to excel, they'll excel.

- We're here. We deserve that attention. We're fighting for that attention. We're gathering an audience, because it's something we want to see.

- I love the partnership with Women's Sports Foundation. It's aligned with our mission, developing leadership, providing opportunities, and empowering young girls.

- ICEF on me, ICEF on 3-- 1, 2, 3.

- ICEF!

NIA TOLIVER: Playing is Nia Toliver. I started playing in middle school. I went to an ICEF middle school, and I had previously been homeschooled, so, like, my first time in a school environment, too, so Rugby kind of gave me that niche community that was welcoming and accepting to me, because I was a bit weirder when I was younger.

- When you watch her play, you can't take your eyes off her. This could be an Olympic journey. She's grown as a rugby player, but that was always going to happen.

- You've got to rely on her.

STUART KROHN: My name is Stuart Krohn I'm the director of rugby.

NIA TOLIVER: Coach Krohn he's going to tell you the truth. You know, he doesn't care how old you are.

STUART KROHN: I think the biggest way that she's grown is her ability to self reflect. She would flare up, like her emotions were stirred, and she would react.

NIA TOLIVER: It was hard to hear those truths about myself, I guess, right? And like, face them and try to work past them.

LISA FINEGAN: My name is Lisa Finegan, and I also coach the incredible rugby program, ICEF Rugby. My girls develop this incredible sense of resilience and grit, and then that transfers into other areas of their lives.

STUART KROHN: A lot of the girls gravitate to Lisa. She's mission driven. She's a natural mentor, and I just think she's a great role model for the girls.

LISA FINEGAN: The international travel component of the program provides a powerful experience for students. They develop far greater levels of respect and appreciation for a diversity of people and places.

DENECIA FERNANDES: My name is Denecia Fernandes I was able to go on three international tours during my high school career. At Berkley, I think it just helped me to be more open to meeting new people, and just, like, being ready for the culture shock that I was going to have moving into a dorm, or, like, being on campus and not seeing another black person for hours at a time.

NIA TOLIVER: I guess now, my whole emote is like to inspire people at this point, like, we can bring that attention, awareness, especially to the women's side of things.

LISA FINEGAN: You're showing your leadership on the field, making those tackles, sprinting when you have nothing else in the tank, and then that is, in effect, transferred to life. I'm excited for the future of ICEF Rugby and the ICEF Leadership Academy. I'm blessed that I can use my gifts to contribute to that legacy.

STUART KROHN: The Women's Sports Foundation support has been tremendous. Several of our alumni are back coaching with us now. These young adults and Lisa will be managing the program themselves and taking it in directions that I couldn't even imagine, and hopefully 2021 Tokyo, Nia Toliver is on the field with the USA playing sevens, fighting for a medal. If she is, I will be in the stands.

DENECIA FERNANDES: I think that we all have it within us, and I think that sports are a great way to unlock your character that's deep down inside. Krohn says that all the time. He's so big on character. Us becoming the best versions of ourselves.