When Rugby Meets Business

Last summer, recreation management senior Rebekah Boaz Hebdon took junior core classes and toured the country with the women’s collegiate All-American rugby team, which is comprised of the top players in the nation. This semester, Hebdon is working even harder; she is finishing her final year of school, starting on BYU’s women’s rugby team, and preparing for a tournament with the national rugby team.

We sat down with Hebdon to discuss focusing in school, training for the rugby World Cup, and planning for the future.

How did you get started with rugby?

Rebekah Hebdon: One of my good friends from high school sports in Murrieta, California, was on the BYU rugby team, and she told me my freshmen year that I would love it.

So you never played rugby before?

RH: No. That’s pretty normal because our coaches, who are from Fiji, take athletes that could’ve played in college but chose to focus on their major instead. The athletes find out about the team, and the coaches transform them into rugby players.

I played soccer and softball in high school. Softball taught me the hand eye coordination, and you read players in soccer the same way you do in rugby. It was not bad to pick it up. I came out my sophomore year when I changed my major from French horn performance to recreation management.

Why did you change your major to recreation management?

RH: My whole life has been half sports, half music. That’s what my parents did, too. Coming to college, it was hard to only do music and to see my twin [BYU goalkeeper Rachel Boaz] be able to do the college soccer scene. I was like, okay, I want to do a sport, and maybe music isn’t for me career-wise. Once I turned to recreation management, I didn’t have to practice music for three hours every day, so I did rugby.

I have always wanted to work in businesses that create meaningful experiences for their customers, so recreation management is a good fit for me. I want to be a part of a business that brings people together, makes people better, helps balance lives, and where I can use all my business skills in a fun environment.

What’s your dream job?

RH: I might want to work with National USA Rugby, but it’s still a growing sport in the USA. Otherwise I like a little bit of business work with the ability to go outdoors. I want to do high adventure things, like manage a high adventure facility and work in the mountains. I love zip lining and stuff like that. I like to be outdoors and working with youth.

Where does that preference come from? 

RH: When I was young my church group actually did a high adventure girls’ camp, which is pretty rare. I was super motivated from the lessons they taught and the facilitation after the ropes course. I just remember overcoming things on the obstacle course and then relating it to the gospel.

How is the Marriott School preparing you for such a career?

RH: I love how well it prepares you for real life. I also love the opportunities given to the students to network with people in their field and to have a job set up for us after graduation through the help of staff and internships. I have learned how to be an ethical leader in the business world, and I have developed business skills that I never thought I could. I appreciate having experienced religious professors that care about me and are willing to help me succeed when I need help. They push me and have helped me find my passion to provide balanced and meaningful experiences for others.
I attribute all of the jobs or business successes that I have ahead of me to the Marriott School. I can’t picture any other school preparing their  recreation management students better for post-college jobs.

How do you balance rugby, the recreation management program, a social life, and still find time to sleep?

RH: And being married! It’s definitely crazy, but I feel like that’s how I get through school. I actually do well in school, so that I am able to travel for rugby and go on the trips with the team. For instance, in two weeks I’m going to France for ten days with the USA team. Over the spring and summer terms I did the junior core while doing the All-American tour, so it’s not bad. They give you time in the evenings to rest, so I’ll do some homework then. I usually just try to get what I can done early, before the trip.

If you get accepted, would you like to play for the NUSA team for a while?

RH: Oh for sure, I think for at least a year or so. During the All-American tour, my coach pulled me aside and said they were interested in me for the 2021 World Cup. But my goal is to do private training to see if I can go earlier, so I can stop rugby and start focusing purely on family. If I can’t get into the upcoming 2017 World Cup, then I’ll probably just have a kid, take a year to rebuild, and then be ready for the 2021 World Cup. That’s my ideal. I think it’s doable to have one kid and be able to get back into it. That’s kind of what’s in the air, but we’ll see where the wind takes me when it comes.

Q: What does success look like to you?

RH: For myself, success means raising a righteous family in the gospel of Jesus Christ with my husband, Chase. Before my mission I thought success also included being a rugby All-American and making the USA team, but now I just see those things as perks. Of course it’s satisfying to be an All-American now, but whether or not I make the USA team does not define my success. Success is being a positive asset to society that honors the Lord and His plan for us. I would like to have a job where I can be outdoors influencing youth to make better decisions in life and believing in themselves. Having a good job is a high priority for me, but it comes second to being a wife and mother.

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Photos courtesy of Rebekah Boaz Hebdon. Hebdon spent her summer touring the country with the collegiate women’s All-American rugby team. Now she is training to win a spot on the national women’s team.