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NAYA TAPPER

Hometown: Beaufort, South Carolina

Career:

•   All-American athlete at UNC Chapel Hill

•   Made her international 7’s debut for the USA at 2016 Sao Paulo Sevens

•   One month later, earned her first international cap with the Women's National Team (15s) against France at the Women's Super Series

•   Selected to the USA 2017 World Cup Team

•   Part of the silver medal winning 7’s team at the 2019 Pan Am Games  

My name is Naya Tapper and I’m a wing for the USA women’s rugby 7s team. Before I was able to claim this label, I was playing for UNC-Chapel Hill.

How did you start playing rugby?

I started playing rugby for the first time there in college and that’s where my love for the sport began.

What made you fall in love with the sport?

The one thing that made me fall in love with the sport was the people and the culture. I was able to be around so many different types of people and it opened my mind to so many things. It taught me to never judge a book by its cover and to try new ways of thinking whenever I had the chance to do so. Rugby is such an accepting sport and culture. 

What do you think makes rugby such a powerful experience for women and girls?

One thing that I was able to enhance about myself because of rugby was my confidence. It made me confident about being strong, aggressive, and gritty but still a beautiful woman. I love that I was and am able to be my 100% self regardless of the judgments about how I should look and act. That is what I think makes rugby so powerful of an experience for young girls and women. They can be however they choose to be in the sport and are accepted for that. That builds so much mental strength and confidence.

Who are the role models or mentors who made a difference in your career?

I’ve been able to meet some amazing people through this sport and my favorite by far is my mentor and friend Phaidra Knight. She is a rugby Hall of Famer! #GOALS She is also a rugby commentator, owner of her own clothing company called PSK Collective, president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, and she is just a boss in every area she touches. She’s my motivator to not only be great on the field but also off the field. So shoutout to her because she is doing her thing and bringing others along with her. I love that.

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone reading this, it’d be to trust that everything happens for a reason and that even when you think you are the best or doing great, you can always get better and do more! 

TIGHT FIVE

1. What’s your middle name?

Elena

2. What position do you play? Have you played others as well or before?

 I play wing. I have also played prop.

3. Do you have a lucky game day hairstyle or item of clothing or tape with words- any game day turnout rituals

I have a tattoo that says “go scared” on my forearm that I use to remind me to keep pushing myself through the hard times, especially during the games when I start to become fatigued. My game day rituals are all about listening to my music. Puts me in whichever mood I need to be in.

4. Favourite workout

Back squatting.

5. How do you want to leave the jersey (and the sport) better for the next generation of female athletes?

I want women and young girls to be inspired once I leave the sport. Inspired to do the unthinkable, to do what they love, and to work their butt off for it. I want to leave behind a more clear pathway to the professional level for the sport. Lastly, I want to leave behind this idea of confidence that rugby is for everyone, no matter your size, culture, who you choose to love, or the color of your skin.

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