RICHMOND, VA (April 24, 2018) – The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) today announced Phaidra Knight as the April S’Hero of the Month award recipient for her leadership and commitment to athletics. As the S’Hero of the Month, Knight embodies the virtues that the Amazing Young WomenTM movement represents. Her story represents triumph, hard work and empowerment through sport. She has dedicated her post-playing career to use sport as a means of change.
Phaidra Knight is a world-class athlete who has broken the barriers on and off the pitch over the last two decades. Her success was recently celebrated by World Rugby when she was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame, the first African American and the second American to receive this honor. Her competitiveness and contagious fighting spirit was felt by all, leaving a lasting impression. Now she has set her sights on the non-profit sector, and impacting the youth of tomorrow through leadership education and sport.
Knight was born and raised in the small town of Irwinton, Georgia, growing up on the family farm. The work ethic and discipline from her farm duties were ingrained early on, and two major contributors to her success.
She went on to attend Alabama State University, graduating magna cum laude and continuing her postgraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Knight was introduced to rugby while in Wisconsin, and her life was forever changed. Her dreams began to shift from practicing law, to playing rugby professionally and leaving a mark on the international stage.
“I found my tribe when I started to play. From the first training, I fell in love with it. I was surrounded by a group of people who accepted me for who I was,” Knight said about finding the sport that changed her life. “There were people of various religions, ethnicities and backgrounds. I had never been in an environment that was so inclusive. It was all about creating a fun, supportive platform to play our sport and be good people.”
Knight began volunteering, coaching and connecting herself with people and organizations with similar initiatives. One of her biggest partners in this venture has been the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF).
She originally got involved with the WSF as an advocacy intern following her first year of law school. Knight reconnected with the organization when she was training for the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup, receiving a Travel & Training Fund Grant to help fund her training and travel for the.event.
“As women athletes, we are often paying out of our pocket. By obtaining this grant, I gained some monetary relief, but it also provided some hope and optimism that women won’t always have to pay their own way,” Knight said about receiving the Travel & Training Fund Grant. “I want to raise awareness and increase funding to the WSF to help the next person in need.”
Knight represented the Women’s Sports Foundation at numerous red carpet events, lobbying in Washington D.C. for their cause. She has been a part of the athlete advisory council, and was recently appointed to the Women’s Sports Foundation Board of Trustees.
In 2010, Knight got involved in coaching young men at Rikers, a juvenile detention center in New York. She was running rugby training sessions, as well as leading her young clients in CrossFit workouts. Her work with the inmates gave her the inspiration to create Peak Unleashed, a non-profit organization.
In the first phase of Peak Unleashed’s initiative, they will specifically use sport as a means to bring leadership, discipline and change to the at-risk and opportunity youth. This includes incarcerated youth, kids in alternate schooling and kids who have dealt with substance abuse either themselves or within their families.
“I have transformed my life through sport, so that is something I strive to pass on to others,” Knight said about her dedication to use sport as a means to impact others. “I have worked with organizations that target at-risk and opportunity kids, and I see the difference programs like this can make. It gives them a vehicle to express themselves physically in a controlled environment. It offers a transformation for these kids.”
Knight has dedicated the past twenty years to training and being a world-class athlete, and now she wants to pass on the things she has learned through her experiences. Although her most noticeable accomplishments came on the pitch, she also faced adversity through sport and other ventures.
With her eyes on competing in the Olympics, she stepped out of the box to explore bobsledding. With no background in sprinting like her other teammates, she knew it was a long shot. Although she did not end up competing in the Olympics, she took away invaluable experiences.
“It’s having the courage to step out and do something when there is a chance of failure, but also knowing there is so much to gain from that experience,” Knight said about some of the chances she took later in her athletic career. “I can go into the next chapter of my life with confidence and a cognition of taking more things matter of fact. I know I can do anything I set my mind to. I am able to enjoy the journey without being so fixated on the destination.”
With her background in law and sport, she gives a voice to those who have not traditionally had a seat at the table. She will continue to advocate for young people, women and people of color specifically as she turns her focus away from playing and to using sport as a means for change.
Knight is excited to continue her work with World Rugby, the Women’s Sports Foundation and Peak Unleashed. She hopes that her story can help other young people realize their abilities to encourage change both on and off the field.
Phaidra Knight, you are an Amazing Young Women. We wish you the best of luck as you launch your non-profit and continue to bring equality to all in sport. Thank you for sharing your story.
About Amazing Young WomenTM: The Amazing Young Women campaign is a dynamic platform of online and local market activations that showcase and celebrate female role models offering an aspirational focus for all female athletes and teens as they prepare to be our next generation of leaders. The ECNL is calling on all of the nation’s women to join the movement to celebrate the endless potential of today’s girls.
The #GAMECHANGER campaign celebrates the desire, ambition and impact of the ECNL athlete. #GAMECHANGER defines the inner struggle that SHE has on a daily basis, and showcases the choice to become great. It reaches deep into HER core, exposing all that makes her amazing, resilient and driven.
S’Heroes are a part of the Amazing Young WomenTM campaign designed to showcase strong, successful women who embody the fact that drive on the soccer field translates into life lessons. The ECNL is calling on all who love sports to join them in supporting youth female athletes as they recognize their own potential, define their individual paths to success, and prepare to be our next generation of leaders.
The Amazing Young Women campaign encourages young female athletes to embrace their competitive nature, and prove they cannot be shaken from the path to their dreams. Those recognized as S’Heroes have taken a spirit of leadership and inspiration from the field, and have demonstrated that it’s not just about a phase of your life, but a way of life.
About Elite Clubs National League: The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) was founded in 2009 to enhance the developmental experience of female youth soccer players in the United States through: (i) improving the competitive environment through creation of a true national competitive league; (ii) improving the process for identifying elite female soccer players through a systematic scouting and identification program based on national competitions; and (iii) improving the daily training environment at top female youth soccer clubs through developing best practices and training and organizational guidelines for its member clubs. The ECNL is sanctioned by US Club Soccer and is sponsored by Nike Soccer.
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