JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Capt. Adekunbi Adewunmi was an avid soccer player growing up in Kansas.
When it became clear to Adewunmi, standardizations branch chief for the 50th Operations Group at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, that she would not play professionally, she focused on rugby to maintain her fitness.
Recently, Adewunmi was among four Airmen chosen for the All-Armed Forces team that played in the Luptus Intus Women’s Elise 7s tournament Sept .2-3 at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
While the team finished 1-3 and placed fourth in the tournament, Adewunmi got to display her readiness and resiliency on the pitch.
Here, Adewunmi talks about what it means to play rugby for the Air Force:
Why compete in rugby?
At the point when it was clear that I was not going to play soccer professionally, I still wanted to stay in shape and challenge myself. I started to do long distance running, and I really enjoyed that. Rugby was a big athletic challenge for me, and I think that is what initially drew me to the sport. When I watched my sister play, I was so impressed by the physicality of the sport but also very intimidated because I was smaller than most of the other players. When I finally started to play, I wanted to be able to support my teammates and have their backs on the field, which meant I was going to have to overcome my size. I focused on improving my technique in all aspects of the game so that that along with my strength would give me some advantage on the pitch. One of the best things about rugby is that you can have athletes from every type of athletic background or no athletic background at all and I have seen the same level of desire to learn and improve from both cases.
What's your experience in rugby before the Air Force?
Before I played for the Armed Forces team, I had been playing rugby for two-and-a-half years. The team I played for in Denver, Colorado, is a Division 1 women's team called Black Ice Women's Rugby Football Club. I had never played rugby before I joined Black Ice, but my twin sister, who had been
playing for around five years at the time, encouraged me to join the team.
Since competing in rugby for the Air Force, what have you gained from an athletic, military and personal perspective?
Being selected as one of the Air Force representatives for the Armed Forces team further instilled in me the importance of being fit year round. The length of time from when I heard applications were being accepted for the trial camp to actually being selected was not enough to get in shape. Had I not made fitness and being ready athletically for every rugby season a priority, I may have missed out on an opportunity.
From a military perspective, I have not had a lot of interactions with members of other services. But I realized that just like in club teams around the country, there is a network of military rugby players as well. From players who had played for select sides together to ones that had played with the combined services and armed forces teams in the past. Even during the application process all I heard was encouragement from every service to get the word out to every military rugby player.
I in turn, want to continue to grow the game through all of the athletes and rugby players that I know and continue this extensive network. I feel so lucky to have been a part of the Armed Forces team this year and to have gotten this opportunity to learn from ladies in every service all across the country.
What are you bringing back to your duty station by competing in rugby?
I think I am bringing back a fresh excitement for not only fitness but all of the opportunities available for Air Force and military personnel. I am hoping that more people continue to seek out these opportunities to represent their service or even on a smaller scale represent their unit through different athletics. Additionally, I hope that I hearing about rugby leads more people to watch and play. The game is growing in the U.S. and in the military as well and I hope I can help to continue that growth.
How is competing in rugby building your readiness and resiliency with your fellow Wingmen, your duty station and the Air Force as a whole?
Competing in rugby is building my readiness and resiliency with my fellow Wingmen, duty station, and the Air Force by allowing me to gain experiences and build relationships with military players, service wide. I was able to be a representative of the Air Force to the other services on a personal level and I received the same. I think making these connections on all levels is what the Air Force, and the military as a whole, needs to strengthen readiness and resiliency at a time when inoperability is a key to all of our success.
For more information on the Air Force Sports program, click here.
Editor’s note: Athlete in Focus is a monthly series spotlighting U.S. Air Force athletes.