Name: Talia Fromm
Location: New York, New York
Occupation: Physical Education Teacher & Coach/President, Brooklyn Women’s Rugby
As a little girl in Bayside, Queens, Talia Fromm wanted to be a police officer. Her older brother, Daniel, was able to persuade her to pursue a different career path, but even the her mother’s disapproval couldn’t keep her away from the rough-and-tumble game of rugby. As an adult, Talia is a rugby player and team president, heading the Brooklyn Women’s Rugby Team.
At 16, Talia was diagnosed with Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy, which plagued her with tiny jerks in her extremities and shoulders. This variety of epilepsy occasionally leads to a seizure, but Talia was lucky enough to only have two seizures prior to being medicated. Fortunately medication has allowed her to manage the symptoms as an adult, but she remembers that the uncontrollable twitches and shakes that she experienced as a teenager in school were scary and humiliating. “The fact that the doctor told me I had to be on medication for the rest of my life didn’t sit very well either,” she remembers. “My mind and body had to get used to it all; going to the hospital regularly, taking medicine twice a day, accepting what was happening, and finding how to balance my love for sports with this new challenge I was facing.” After more than eight years, Talia has proven that Epilepsy has no control over her athletic ability or career.
Handling her Epilepsy has caused Talia to have a different perspective than most people. She cites her biggest influences as athletes who have triumphed in spite of physical disabilities, those who have become active and competitive despite whatever struggles their bodies may endure. “We are all guilty of having lazy days and not wanting to move a muscle, but many of us take advantage of the fact that we are healthy and have a working body to do whatever we would like,” she says. “When I find myself mentally defeated or falling into lazy tendencies, I think about those who aren’t as lucky and don’t get to walk or run whenever they would like. When I see an athlete who has to overcome an obstacle like a physical disability, whether it is temporary or permanent, it pushes me to go harder and not take advantage of what I’ve got.”
Further proof of Talia’s success was her Division I softball career in college. Following graduation, she didn’t want to simply settle into a sedentary lifestyle. Having athletic friends allowed her to be connected to other options, including women’s pro football, which she played for a year. Around the same time, Talia’s friend Emily had started to play for Brooklyn Women’s Rugby. The team was short several players one weekend, and Talia was called upon to help out. It was from that short stint volunteering that Talia became one of the most involved players in the league. “I was hooked,” she says. These days Talia and the team practice two times a week and once every weekend.
The game itself is as rough as you’d imagine, but that isn’t necessarily the most invigorating part of playing. “At first I thought the best experiences on the field would be hitting someone really hard and tackling them to the ground,” Talia says. “As good as it feels to get a great tackle, I’ve come to realize that the most amazing feeling on the rugby pitch [Note: The term pitch in rugby refers to the field] for me is being able to avoid one. When you receive the ball and an opponent is coming straight toward you, the rush you get is indescribable. On top of that, when you are able to give them a stiff arm, avoid the tackle, and run the whole field to score, that’s the ultimate rush.”
All of that pushing and shoving does occasionally have the kind of consequences you’d expect, however. Talia has even experienced the pain of a concussion. “I didn’t think it was that bad at first, but I had to be hospitalized for the remainder of the day until I regained my memory and self-awareness. As frightening as that might sound, it only made me appreciate the sport more. I’m well aware that serious injuries are inherent with rugby, but with proper technique and strategy, a lot of it can — and should — be avoided. I definitely learned that and a lot more in the time that I have been playing and practicing since then.” It’s that kind of courageous and sensible approach that has helped to make her not only a player in the league, but the president of a team.
Women’s rugby has been gaining in popularity, in part because of Talia and other players, coaches, and team leaders like her. Although public opinion may be improving, the same can’t be said about everyone. “To be completely honest, the only person I get flack from is my mother. She didn’t like me playing pro football because of the contact and roughness, so rugby makes her even more concerned and upset.” At least Talia’s mother can rest assured, knowing that her daughter is a capable player, who also lends her mind and body to passing on the legacy of sportsmanship as a P.E. teacher and coach.
After majoring in Sports Management at Townson University in Maryland, Talia spent a year behind a desk in New York, working a corporate gig. The job drained her energy for all the wrong reasons. “I was really unhappy because I was losing touch with my passion for sports and I had to sit behind a desk and in front of a computer all day, every day. It wasn’t for me.” It was then that she was inspired to pursue her graduate degree in Physical Education at Brooklyn College. She researched private schools in the city that were in need of Phys Ed teachers, and after months of searching and studying, Talia was both enrolled in school and starting her new job as a teacher and coach. Reflecting on how her career path had turned, she says, “I am so lucky and happy with the degree I’m pursuing and the job that I have. The kids make me laugh, and I get to run around and be active all day.”
Every morning she gets up and works out before heading into school. She teaches until mid-afternoon, and then coaches until the evening. After that, she either goes to rugby practice, graduate school, or she shoots hoops competitively for the recreational basketball team that she’s on. Talk about an active schedule!
She’s not stopping there, either. Talia’s love of administration united with athleticism has led her to set her sights on becoming the athletic director of a competitive high-school or college athletics program. “I like the idea of managing everything that encompasses an athletics program to make sure it is in order and growing, all while being able to surround myself in the physical and sporty environment that I love.” Combined with her love of children, and her inquisitive nature that regards everyone as capable of achieving their athletic goals, Talia’s on the fast track to a victorious future.
“The children I teach love that I play rugby. It’s unfamiliar to them, so the fact that they’re learning about a new, exciting, physically tough sport AND that I’m a female playing it is cool,” she says.
If you’re interested in women’s rugby, and happen to be in the New York metro area, here’s a little more information on Brooklyn Women’s Rugby:
As an independent women’s team, they’re trailblazers, as most women’s teams are born from an existing men’s team or club. Brooklyn Women’s Rugby welcomes any women who want to learn or compete on the pitch, all while being a part of an energetic, fun, and dynamic team. A Division II member of the Metropolitan New York Rugby Football Union, Brooklyn Women’s Rugby play have a fall season that starts at the beginning of September and goes until the end of November. The division is made up of six teams, and they play each team once. In the spring there is a season where matches are set up between teams within the division as well as local teams. There are also summer tournaments that they’re a part of.
If you’d rather spectate, all of their home matches are held at the Red Hook Playground in Red Hook, Brooklyn, at the corner of Hicks Street and Bay Street. They practice two days a week: Mondays in Prospect Park at 6:30PM , that practice is held between the baseball diamonds on the right hand side of the path at 9th Street and Prospect Park West. On Thursdays the team is at the Red Hook Playround at 6:30, and their pitch is in the center of the track, the one with bleachers for all the fans. If you’re thinking of waiting until it warms up, pre-season spring practices start in February at their indoor facility at PS 282 (for more information on the location, visit www.ps282.org.)
For more information on player dues, officers, captains, and a full schedule, visit the team website, www.brooklynwomensrugby.org. Any women interested in joining or who would like to contact Talia and her other team members with questions or concerns can email them at [email protected]il.com.