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Year 1 Down: Life After College

  • 02 May 2016

Eagle hopeful Chelsey Sveinsson’s settling into Seattle. /// Photo courtesy Seattle Saracens


As the college season comes to an end, one wonders which athletes will be making their final appearances on the national stage. Which graduates will continue to play high-level rugby or push for Eagle selection, and which will package up rugby as a sport they enjoyed in college? But that decision to play rugby is, arguably, never so hard as the first year out of college, and it’s something with which Chelsey Sveinsson can identify.


Rugby attracts many crossover athletes but it’s tough to imagine that Stanford recruited anyone so decorated as Sveinsson. The Texas native came to Palo Alto to run track. She is a former national champion in the mile and two-mile, and her accolades reflect the buzz she built while in high school. Life took a couple of turns, and track didn’t work out for Sveinsson, who then found rugby in her junior year (2014).


Sveinsson found a unique home on the pitch. She was strong enough for front row and fast enough to flow into the backline. She became a unique weapon, and her abilities didn’t escape national scouts. After two years on the pitch, the prop didn’t know what role rugby would play in her future, but then she was invited to a National All Star Competition (NASC), where she co-captained her collegiate team, and then was selected for the Atavus All Stars that played the Ontario Storm.


“Leading up to graduation, I knew that I still wanted to play rugby,” Sveinsson recalled. “How much rugby would be a part of my life and what it would look like, did not solidify until I attended NASC where we heard from Eagles how they managed the work-rugby-life balance.”


Sveinsson got the exposure she wanted through New York Rugby Club and the Northeast Academy. Having relocated to New York City after accepting a summer position with The Bronx Defenders, Sveinsson spent her days as a policy and community organizing intern, and her evenings and weekends training with elite teams. Those commitments, stressed by a diminishing fellowship grant and housing woes that would follow her across the country, eventually reached a crescendo.


“During the last few weeks of the summer, my mind was constantly consumed by thoughts of getting a job and finding housing,” Sveinsson reflected. “Having spent the last three months applying to jobs and not hearing back, I went from being frustrated with job hunting to panicking about where I would be living next week and how I would pay for it.”


And it came time to make a decision: Stay in New York, where the pace of life didn’t really fit her liking; move back home to Texas; or find someplace new.


Sveinsson considered Seattle. She had met Saracens player Carly MacKinnon at camp and asked for some insight into the club, competition and also the employment opportunities in the city. With Seattle’s connection to Atavus, that desire for elite resources was also sated.


Sveinsson packed up and moved to the Pacific Northwest. She leaned on teammates while housing and employment fluctuated, and was gracious to Atavus’ flexibility, which allowed her to train in an elite environment. The organization even provided an internship while Sveinsson was getting on her feet. She remained committed to high-level rugby and featured on the Atavus All Stars at the LVI Women’s Elite 7s bracket, competing against international squads from South Africa, France, Great Britain and Quebec. And in playing with Seattle, Sveinsson is exposed to excellent Canadian teams throughout the year (Seattle just bowed out of the Premier playoffs, losing to standings leader Westshore in the semifinals). Not to mention, she plays alongside well known talent like Carrie White, whose depth of game knowledge makes everyone around her better; Eagles like Naima Reddick and Kelsey Stockert; and MacKinnon, whose upbeat persona, even through injury, has inspired Sveinsson while she deals with her own life’s vicissitudes.  


The final puzzle piece was the right job, and Sveinsson landed employment in a field she prefers: coordinator at the non-profit Move to End Violence. Life is settling into place, but there’s still much to achieve.


“Even though I didn’t make the first round of players announced for the Eagle Player Pool, my focus is still the same,” Sveinsson explained. “I have a burning conviction that I can perform at the international level for 15s and 7s. So, for me, the question of ‘if’ is not even a question. It’s more a question of when. As a person who does not like to dilly dally, I am working hard to reach this goal in the near future.


“I have zero regrets about the past year,” she added. “I’ve met so many beautiful people, teammates, friends and colleagues who have influenced my life up to now, and I wouldn’t exchange any of those experiences for something else. I am also thankful that I was able to take risks and that I have family and friends who support me in those decisions. My ability to move across the country is not so much a testament of my survival abilities but more testament of how strong my support network is.”

Looking ahead, reigning DI champion Seattle will likely receive an at-large berth to the DI national Round of 8, which begins May 21. Then there’s NASC, a slew of summer 7s and select side fixtures, and plenty of opportunity for the country’s young graduates to keep playing high-level ball.


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