Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Canada Player Profiles: Meet Nicole Strasko of Life University

**UPDATE: Nicole was unable to join us for the Calgary 2014 tour but I  had the pleasure of watching her develop in both 7s and 15s over the course of the 2014-2015. With several Stars already on Life's roster and Tobago Star KB transferring in winter quarter, this is a program where Stars keep a close connection. We finally saw Nicole play live at January's ARPTC camp in Little Rock which she attended with fellow Life speedsters Christina Swift and Deshel Ferguson as well as S&C Coach Kimberly Knipe. Over the course of 4 days their already solid skills developed and tournament play yielded several tries by the Running Eagles contingent.

Stars ties with Life U meant we spent an additional 5 long weekends with the team this spring observing trainings, in the weight room, watching film, supporting at men's and women's matches, and attending ODA sessions. Both undergrad programs ended their15s seasons ranked in the Top 5 nationally and will compete in the CRC tournament in Philadelphia this weekend; the men's Elite Training Group ran the table in the Atlantic Rugby Premiership to take the title.

As a first year D1 women's program Life has achieved a lot of success. Their coaching staff transformed a team where some of the players first picked up a ball in September into disciplined national contenders. Their players bought into the system and have challenged themselves in a rigorous training environment. The 2015-2016 campaign, in which Life will play an independent schedule against varsity sides from across the US will see continued growth and an outpouring of rugby talent from Atlanta.**

Nicole Strasko comes to Stars Rugby 7s via the Life University Women's Rugby Team coached by my good friend (and awesome rugby chatterbox/HUGE women's rugby advocate/dreamer of bigger things/ amazing Atlanta Harlequins player and president) Ros Chou.

Ros is one of the best and brightest rugby minds I know who is more than capable of leading Life's women's program to success to equal its men's. She has done an incredibly thorough job in her recruiting process (Life is a varsity program with scholarships available) in traveling across the US and we've had long discussions about potential players from the Midwest and from the Stars!

Thus, a few of our Vegas Stars will be transferring to play for her this fall and will join rookies Nicole and Elissa on the pitch as Running Eagles. This Canada trip will be a fantastic opportunity for Nicole, Elissa and Kim to play together prior to fall 15s training (Gracie is also moving to play at Life but was unavailable for the Calgary Tour). I cannot wait to see what this combination of women are capable of... if Ros recommended them they have to have some serious potential.

Here's Nicole's rugby story in her words:

I started playing rugby last season for the first time ever. I came in knowing nothing, but am falling in love with the game the more I learn and the more I play. After playing my first season I was chosen as an honorable mention for the Independent South Conference. The closest to a contact sport I had played previously was basketball, which I played at my undergrad college for 4 years and loved it! I am an aggressive athlete, and can't get enough of the physicality of rugby.

I just returned from the USA Women's Rugby Collegiate All American Camp in Virginia where I learned a great deal and was privileged to play with passionate women with talent.

Additionally, I can't wait to further my 7s game, because I have been playing as a loose forward and I love the freedom it gives me. I take this opportunity whole-heartedly and take new experiences as a way to grow, and of course all in good fun!

I am in chiropractic school right now, and I want to take care of the Olympic Rugby team as well as all rugby players and athletes in the future. Opportunities like this opens up doors for my dreams to come true. Plus, the more I know about the sport and the more I play myself, the more I can help those athletes in the future because I have been in their shoes. 
I believe everything happens for a reason, and I know that to be true for rugby and the people I have grown close to because of it!
 -Nicole Strasko
Life University Women's Rugby

Note: Nicole has a personal fundraising page here for anyone interested in supporting her Calgary travels!

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