A mom’s advocacy, a daughter’s transformation.
We recently connected with Pua Simi, mother of three, team manager of her kids’ rugby club, and an advocate for youth sports. Pua has witnessed the opportunities that sports participation provides, and shared with us the story of how rugby transformed her daughter into a confident leader with amazing opportunities heading her way!
Tee, Pua’s daughter, had gone to her brother’s and cousin’s football games growing up, but never showed much interest in sports herself. “There weren’t any minorities where we lived, and Tee was not comfortable with her Islander body around all the tiny little girls she was playing with,” says Pua. “We tried everything through 5th grade, and although I wanted her to be active, I kind of gave up and decided that sports wasn’t her thing.” But then, the family moved to Washington State and they met Coach Andy.
Coach Andy is Andy Ramsey, the founder of the Rainier Junior Rugby Club. He is an enthusiastic coach that ensures his programs are accessible to all kids. He works closely with the Pacific Islander community and is aware that in large families, younger siblings, especially girls, are often left on the sidelines. He goes out of his way to talk to parents to encourage them to get all their kids involved, offering a discount for siblings to help ease financial constraints.
Shortly after the Simi family moved to Washington State, Tee happened to be at a football game with her three male cousins, and they stopped at Andy’s information booth. Her cousins decided to sign up for rugby, and Coach Andy looked at Tee and asked “Why not you, too?” With his encouragement, Tee agreed to sign up and off she went to her first practice. “Tee changed so much that summer. I was working and couldn’t go to practices, but my sister and other parents would tell me how good she was. Tee’s confidence grew so much, she came home one day and announced that she was going to tryout for volleyball and softball that year. We couldn’t believe it” says Pua, “she even ended up wrestling in high school!”
“Why not you, too?”
Fast forward to today; Tee is a junior in high school. She has continued playing rugby, the girls team has grown considerably, and Pua is fielding calls from college coaches. “It’s just unbelievable. I didn’t go to college and my husband didn’t either. It’s life changing.”
Pua wants other kids in her community to have the same opportunities. “Even though Coach Andy won’t turn a kid away due to financial reasons, there is shame and embarrassment for some families about playing for free, so they won’t even sign their kids up. When I heard about the Every Kid Sports Pass program, I started taking my laptop around to family’s homes and helped them apply. I told them how easy it was and walked them through the application. So many kids have signed up to play now. If the Pass was available earlier, our team would have so many more kids!” says Pua.
We are so grateful for Pua, and all of our supporters, for making sure that the opportunities youth sport provides are available to all kids, regardless of family income!
Thank you, Maria Valencia Photography, for your kindness in helping us tell this story!