How a canceled practice turned a star athlete into the next USA Women's National Team player
Practice makes perfect, but when one door closes another opens. When the doors to an afternoon sports practice were closed due to a surprise cancellation, Kaitlyn Broughton decided to spend some extra time on something she had never done before - rugby.
Finding Joy in Rugby
Broughton attended Riverdale High School where she was a star pole vaulter and basketball player. Despite her excellence in other sports, she was introduced to rugby by some family members, and her friends invited her to play with the high school team.
Broughton knew she did not have the time to try a new sport since she was dedicated to others. However, that all changed when one of her afternoon practices was canceled for the day.
With some extra time, Broughton decided to give rugby a try. She quickly fell in love.
Rugby grew on Broughton, and she excelled as a player on the pitch. She was so good that the time came when she was given an ultimatum by her basketball coach: choose to play basketball or rugby.
"Rugby told me I didn't have to choose," Broughton told MLR Tennessee. "There was no ultimatum, and I want to play a sport that doesn't make me choose."
Broughton made the choice to pursue rugby. Her decision led her to an athletic career that exceeded her imagination.
From College to the National Team
Source: Life University Athletics
While at Life, Broughton soared in her gameplay. She was a collegiate All-American in both 7s and 15s in 2015, 2016, and 2017. She also led Life to two national championships. "School brought a bus and let students buy tickets with packages for shirts that matched the uniforms," she said of the atmosphere at the Collegiate Rugby Championships. "200-300 people in bright green uniforms - I loved seeing our 'Sea of Green' coming out to support us."
Source: USA Rugby
During her time on the national team, Broughton had one of her favorite rugby memories. In November 2018, the USA Women's side faced off against Ireland. The USA was a massive underdog, yet they exceeded all expectations and defeated Ireland 19-10.
"Can't put it into words," Broughton said. "So awesome to get a win with the girls we went with. 80% of us were getting our first cap - It was our very first tournament together."
For Broughton, the victory was special. The team had previously been pummeled by New Zealand (67-6) and England (57-5) in the weeks leading up to the Ireland match. "Everything was going the way it needed to go," she said about the match. "Winning collisions, stringing phases, and seeing the things we had talked about in action was great. The match was so much fun. Reminded me of playing at Riverdale with a bunch of ragtag friends getting together for rugby."
Source: The Irish Times
Broughton scored a first-half try in the match to give the USA a lead that they would never relinquish.
Playing in the Women's Premier League and Premier Rugby Sevens
Broughton continued her rugby journey by joining the Glendale Merlins, a team in the Women's Premier League, the highest women's competition in the United States.
While playing for the Merlins, she told MLR Tennessee about the experience of winning the 2019 15s national championship. "What made it great was all these girls just wanted to hold a 15s title. Olympian Carla Gardner never won a 15s championship and wanted it so bad. Giving that to her, to hold up that trophy, is one of my all-time favorite rugby memories."
Source: Rocky Mountain Rugby
Since the championship, Broughton's rugby career continues to thrive. She still plays in the WPL, has been selected to the USA Falcons squad, and competes in the first-ever professional USA sevens league, Premier Rugby Sevens.
Source: Premier Rugby Sevens
Growing the Game Through Major League Rugby and Development
Broughton continues to give back to the game that has given her so much. "Rugby gave me a confidence that I never had before. I was always a small kid, but thought, 'If I can ram my body into someone as big as my dad, nothing is going to stop me." She told MLR Tennessee that rugby gave her a family that helped her be strong against the challenges of attending school.
In talking about grassroots development, she is excited about rugby's future in Tennessee. She believes that a Major League Rugby franchise will accelerate the state's grassroots development and the potential for a professional women's 15s team.
"Hope that [an MLR franchise] changes the way that we go about grassroots rugby in Tennessee," she said. "You get the kids in, and it all trickles up. Get more parents invested with time and money. We need to be getting people playing the sport before they get to college."
Broughton is following MLR with a close eye. Her favorite team is the LA Giltinis who won the league championship in 2021. She has a lot of friends who play for the team including Christian Rodriguez. She hopes that Tennessee will get its own franchise soon to compete in this top USA league.
Broughton is one of Tennessee's finest rugby players. From her international and domestic accolades, her impact is felt on and off the field. She is excited to grow the game that she loves, one player at a time.
Do you want to connect with the Tennessee rugby community? Join our free forum to connect with others and have fun conversations: MLR Tennessee Forum
Do you have an interesting rugby Tennessee story? Contact MLR Tennessee for a chance to have your story featured.