Two Pilipina students on the University of Florida Women’s Ruby Team have been invited to a training camp in Chula Visa, Calif. by the USA rugby academy at the Olympic Training Center.
Gabrielle Zablan, a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in athletic training, and Stephanie Browne, a 20-year-old junior studying statistics, are the two players that have been invited to attend the training center.
Zablan said she became involved with rugby at UF because she missed the team sports environment and the competitive nature of playing sports while she was in high school.
“My friend Arren, who was a player last year, told me the days they practiced and I went out and just started playing,” Zablan said. She said she stayed on the team because she loved the competition and the people that she was playing with.
“When I first joined, everyone was so welcoming and supportive when I was learning the game,” she added.
Her mother, however, was against Zablan playing at first.
“When I told my mom, who is a registered nurse, I was playing rugby her eyes got big and was just like no,” Zablan said. “She sees the physicality of the game and immediately thinks of the worst injuries that could happen. “
Zablan’s mother and family began to support her when they noticed the passion that Zablan had for the sport.
Stephanie Browne began playing rugby her freshman year in college. She also played soccer her whole life and ran track in high school. She began playing ruby after seeing pictures posted on Facebook.
“I loved the sport immediately,” Browne said.
The two Olympic hopefuls are currently raising funds to attend the training camp in the summer.
Zablan has already begun fundraising through her GoFundMe.com page in which supporters may send donations to her online. Her GoFundMe.com page has raised $275. According to Zablan she has raised $575 total. Zablan’s GoFundMe.com page shows her goal as $1,700.
Browne has started publicizing her GoFundMe.com page this week. She has a total goal of $1,500. She is also thinking of other ways to fundraise.
“I was thinking about trying to get some sponsorships from companies back home, as well as some companies in Gainesville,” Browne said.
As Pilipinos, Browne and Zablan both feel the sense of family within Filipino culture influences how they view rugby.
“Family is very important in Filipino culture, and to me,” Browne said. “And I know when I step onto the rugby field my teammates are my family, so there really isn't anything I wouldn't do for them.”
Both have thought about the chance to play with the Olympic team in the future.
“If I got a chance to compete with the Olympic team,” Browne said, “I think my heart would explode. I would be so happy.”