Name: Bri Kim
Level Played: USA Rugby Women’s All-Americans (U-23 National Team pool, vice-captained U-20 team in 2014)
Team: Northern Virginia Women’s Rugby Club (NOVA), University of Virginia Class of 2015 alum
If you had one piece of advice to give to a young female athlete, what would it be?
Don’t limit yourself to one sport too early, pursue every sport you learn to love and appreciate. Nowadays it seems that young athletes everywhere are burning themselves out because they feel they need to be ultra-competitive and eat-sleep- breathe one sport at the age of 10 so they can aspire to play collegiately or professionally. Athletes who played multiple sports growing up are often the most successful down the road- there’s no need to create unnecessary pressures so early on in adolescence.
How important is the mental/psychological game in sports?
Mentality drives the physical talent of an athlete to perform. Without the proper mentality, an athlete cannot consistently perform and succeed. It is imperative to understand early on that there are things that we cannot control as athletes, and we must make do with what we can control- our attitudes and efforts. Also, visualization should be a part of every athlete’s routine. Visualizing yourself going through the perfect motions- whether it’s a textbook tackle or a pass to a teammate to set them up for a try, instills greater confidence and translates to tangible success on the field. Training your mind to go through the highs and lows of the sport is just as critical as training your body through the highs and lows.
What makes a strong female athlete?
If I had to describe a strong female athlete in one word, it would be gritty. Angela Duckworth just released a book called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, a book I would highly recommend and is applicable in any setting in life. She defines grit as passion and perseverance for especially long term goals. I believe that no athlete is strong without both passion and perseverance. You can be passionate about something, but if you lack the drive to continue pushing yourself to the next level, you won’t get better, and vice versa. Grit combined with talent and mentality, in my eyes, is what makes a successful, strong female athlete.
How has failure played a part in your training and your career? How has it helped you to succeed?
Failure is such a crucial aspect of defining an elite athlete. If you’re not close to failure, you aren’t being sufficiently challenged. Great athletes are separated from the rest by how they respond to and overcome failure. The most obvious and common examples of failure would be losing an important game or not making the cut for a roster, while a smaller example could be failing to make the interval times for a sprint workout or a fitness test. It is so important to become familiar with all types of failure so that when a similar obstacle arises during an important moment in a match or in life, you are able to react more favorably and successfully than before.
Failures teach us humility, and help us identify specific weaknesses so that we can reassess priorities and redirect our focus to accomplish feats. All athletes have strengths, but elite athletes are able to pinpoint weaknesses that have made them fail before, that they can focus on and improve at so they are strong in every aspect possible. All failures, big and small, have helped me to become more resilient and taught me important lessons to take away and utilize in the future. Without these failures, I would have no experience in facing and overcoming adversity to reach true success.
Tell us about your life now and how being involved in sports has shaped who you are today.
Like many rugby players in the US today, I just happened upon rugby in college because I was burnt out from soccer and swimming but knew I wanted to be a part of a competitive club team when starting out college. Quickly garnering a love for the sport and having some unexpected success, I knew I wanted to continue playing after college to try to play at the international level. That takes me to where I am today- working full time for a biotech startup and training when I’m not working. Unfortunately, there is no professional rugby league for women in the US (US professional men’s rugby just started this year!), so it’s not easy to make a living by playing and training for rugby full time.
Regardless, rugby and the other sports I played growing up have showed me what it’s like to have an incredible passion for something, and how far you will go to pursue a dream. Beyond the sport itself, being an athlete has taught me how to extend and apply values I’ve learned from sports to my other passion- science. I aspire to go to medical school in the future, and weirdly enough, being an athlete has helped cultivate that drive and focus I have and will certainly need to pursue that dream.
Being involved in rugby specifically has opened up incredible doors and pathways. I have played many sports growing up and have never found one as unique and close-knit as rugby. The rugby community is amazing in that every player, no matter what team, country, race, age, or gender you are from, has the utmost respect for every other rugby player. Everlasting connections are made day in and day out, and the support you receive from a fellow rugby enthusiast is inspiring. Being a part of rugby, and sports more generally, has instilled in me lifelong qualities that would’ve taken me much longer to develop without sports, and appreciation for every success and failure I may face.