For my first online chat ("Chatisode") interview, I sat down with Francesca Cherchi (pictured right with Italy Captain, Sergio Parisse), who is an Italian youth rugby coach and former player in Viterbo, Italy.
arl: When did you first get involved in rugby?
Francesca: My first (introduction to the) rugby world was when my brother started playing rugby, about 1989. I started to follow him in his training, and games, and so on. Every Sunday I went to the field to watch his games, then my mother started to manage the rugby club house, and in 1994 I met my ex-husband, who was the captain of the team. When I met him, and I found out that his ex-girlfriend was a rugby player, I got so jealous that I decided to become a rugby player too.
arl: (Laughs)...That's funny..so your family must have been happy to see you start playing?
Francesca: Oh yes, they thought I was born for this sport, because I'm a strong girl....
arl: What was the name of the club you played for?
Francesca: Rugby Viterbo (www.rugbyviterbo.it)
arl: What position did you play?
arl: How long did you play fly-half, or are you still playing it?
Francesca: I played at fly-half all the time. Now I'm not playing, because I had a problem with my left knee. My rugby playing career is not so long, because I had to stop twice, when I had the babies in 1999, and then in 2001, so I played from 1994 until 1998, then from 2005 until 2006.
arl: So were you still involved in rugby when you were not playing?
Francesca: (..) I'm a coach of a children's team. I had one player in my little team who is now in the national team. (...) my work as coach gave me, and it is still giving me, a lot of positive feelings. (...) my two sons started playing rugby too, following their father and their mother...
Earl: what age is the children you coach?
Francesca: Six and seven. Of course the training is more to teach them the basic things of rugby. They have to learn to play rugby by enjoying themselves.. So they play a lot of games with the ball, or without the ball, they run, they fall down on the floor, and when they finish the training, are tired, very tired, dirty, very dirty, but happy and, of course, they love me (laughs). I teach them rules of life, I teach them to be respectful to their adversary and to greet each other when the game is finished.
arl: As should any good coach. What was the name of the national player you coached?
Francesca: Riccardo Bocchino. He is 20 years old, so he is playing in the young national team
arl: You must have been very proud to see a child you coached play for the Italian national team. Did you see him and think "he's going to be a great rugby player one day"?
Francesca: Yes, of course. It seems incredible, but when he was a child, he was the fastest, the most aggressive, the one who marked more tries than the others. We all thought...he is going to be a great player..he got the ball, and he went to mark a try. He was very good in attack and defense.
arl: Sounds like a player any team would be proud to have.
Francesca: Yes, we all in the rugby society are proud to have had him in our past children's team.
arl: You mentioned earlier that your sons also play. Do you coach them also?
Francesca: Sometimes, but not so often because they get jealous if I give my attention to other children. It is very difficult to be the coach of your own children. Sometimes I replaced my sons coach, when he couldn't come to the field for some reason, but I don't like to do that, because each time my younger .... son got angry at me he would say Mommy, you are bad, I didn't mark try because of you, and so on....my team lost the game cause you didn't see when that player crossed over the line.......
arl: I can imagine it must be difficult, but do you find the experience makes you a better coach?
Francesca: (...) I think the experience made me a better mom because I have to keep my self-control when my son is so angry at me, because I have to explain to him that all the children are equal when I'm on the field. That experience gave me a lot of chances to talk to my son about life, about being respectful. Then, when we are at home, I give him all the attention he needs, but on the field, I'm his mom and the coach of everyone.
arl: Very cool. Looking forward, what do you see in your rugby future?
Francesca: Well, of course, in my rugby future there will be my two sons playing in NEW ZEALAND! I hope I'll be the mother of two amazing rugby players and hope to follow my sons when they go with the Italian national team, playing in the 6 nations tournament or when they play in the world championship yesssssssss.. it is my dream
arl: Well I'll make sure to keep an eye out for them :)
Francesca: Let's see. In the near future, I hope to see my little team winning all the games (laughs) if not, I hope to see them all happy playing rugby. I'm sure about that....rugby is too fun.....it is difficult to explain, you have to try.... how much fun rugby is.....
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