Alaskans Lorrie Clifford and Alev Kelter are members of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Rugby Team with visions of the 2016 Games.
But they won’t get there by sitting around.
They will have to work for it by playing the sport they love, and they want Alaska schoolchildren to follow their lead.
Clifford, Kelter and the Olympic women’s rugby team are in Anchorage this week to help kick off the start of the Healthy Futures Challenge.
A record 184 Alaska elementary schools will participate in the Challenge program, which encourages students to get active and then rewards that physical activity with prizes. Healthy Futures is the signature program of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s important for kids to get active because it’s a healthy way to live and it’s a good way for them to burn that energy,” Clifford said following an assembly at Gladys Wood Elementary. “There are so many sports to be active. There is something for everyone. Just get out and try something new, even if it’s not rugby, but other sports. Obviously most of the athletes from the team have come from other sports, so it’s never too late to try something.”
Clifford played college basketball at Western Oregon University. Kelter played soccer and hockey at the University of Wisconsin.
Both played flag football at Chugiak High School.
Now they are playing rugby.
“We have kids falling in love with the game like we have,” Clifford said. “We’re fortunate to be able to be with these Alaska kids and share our dream.”
Members of the Olympic women’s rugby team will visit more than 25 elementary schools, where they will promote rugby, sports and being healthy. The team will also hold daily training sessions building up to a demo match Saturday.
In a few months the U.S. women will get back to the rugby field and participate in an Olympic qualifying tournament that will take them from Dubai and China to Brazil and Holland.
That’s what has made this trip so special for Clifford and Kelter, who grew up in the same sneakers as these kids.
“I can’t tell you how blessed we all feel to come up here,” Clifford said. “It’s amazing to get to see the kids and give them hope that sports can take you so many different places.”