Spc. Samantha Coleman poses with her All-Army Women’s Rugby jersey

Spc. Samantha Coleman, a motor transport operator with the 2220th Transportation Company in Tucson, poses with her All-Army Women’s Rugby team jersey at Papago Park Military Reserve Oct. 20. Coleman said she has found a deep sense of family and belonging in both the Army and her rugby team.

PHOENIX – Spc. Samantha Coleman, a motor transport operator with the 2220th Transportation Company in Tucson, is one of the athletes on the All-Army Women’s Rugby team.

Hailing from San Antonio, Texas, she has always been involved in sports, playing basketball and learning mixed martial arts since high school. She began playing rugby about a year ago. During a practice with her team in Tucson, she learned about the All-Army Women’s trials in the sport.

With encouragement from her teammates, she decided to go through the competitive application process. “You never know unless you try,” was how she summed it up.

The tryouts immersed her in a world of experienced enlisted and officer players. She had a feeling she wasn’t good enough to be with these leaders. “My mind kept telling me, ‘I don’t deserve to be here,’” Coleman said. “I was so outclassed. But, it's like, you know what? The worst they can do is say no.”

1st Lt. Kasey McCravey, captain of the All-Army Women’s squad and a member of the U.S. Women’s National Rugby Team, attributes Coleman’s success to her desire to learn.

“She has an ability to take information and apply it immediately,” McCravey said. “She would do the extras, and she has become a positive light to the team.”

“You may feel like you’re just a regular specialist, or whatever you may be,” Coleman further observed. “But it’s the work that matters, so you just push forward and try not to think of it as a ‘rank thing.’”

Making the cut was just the beginning. She and the team had to endure summertime training camp in North Carolina. Practice sessions during the hot, sticky, six-hour days was grueling. Sweat flows, feet hurt and the heat only seemed to intensify as the athletes prepared for an upcoming tournament. None of that, however, soured Coleman’s outlook.

“That training camp is honestly the highlight of my life,” she reflected, “because everyone was on the same page and trying to get better and grow.”

McCravey remembered the younger Soldier’s initial performance. “She came in having defensive strength, but she was weaker on her passing,” she said. “She stayed longer with the coaches and other players, and improved those skills with sheer tenacity.”

The team’s hard work was in preparation for the first Armed Forces Sports Women's Rugby Championship in Wilmington, N.C., July 5-6, where all military branches play each other.

Army dominated the competition, going undefeated in the tournament. The victory garnered an invitation to the Cape Fear Tournament July 6-7, where Army faced tougher competition and placed third.

“Rugby can be a pretty brutal sport, but players off the field are totally opposite,” Coleman said. “The whole concept is about community and family – more so than any other sport I’ve been a part of.”

She then drew a comparison to being in the Army. “If you’re having a moment of weakness, or whatever, it’s just like, we’re in this together; embrace the suck.”

Coleman plans to continue playing rugby for the Army. After getting her degree, she wants to be commissioned as an intelligence officer.

“The Army has let me pursue a lot of my passions,” Coleman said. “That’s a real family. They would do anything for you because you would do anything for them.”

The self-doubt Coleman felt when she first joined the team has given way to a better sense of worth.

“Don’t count yourself out before you even try,” were her parting words of advice. “Don’t let other people make you small.”

Members of the military can learn more about All-Army team opportunities through their installation’s Family and MWR Sports Office or they can visit www.armymwr.com/programs-and-services/sports-and-fitness/all-army-sports.