Nursing student balances academics with rugby to compete in 2017 World Cup

August 24, 2017

For Penn State nursing students, the first week of senior year is typically filled with activities such as meeting with faculty advisers and finalizing arrangements for clinical placements or the all-important capstone experience. Instead, senior Tess Feury devoted the week to her second passion: rugby.

Feury, a member of Penn State’s national-champion women’s rugby team and a three-time Collegiate All-American, spent the month of August competing with the U.S. women’s national rugby team, the Eagles, in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland.

It’s a juggling act to which Feury has become accustomed since her first year at Penn State, where she plays fullback and outside center on the rugby team.

“Nursing and rugby are my two passions in life, and I am blessed to have the opportunity to do both at Penn State,” she said.

Feury’s rugby career began at age 4, when her father, a former collegiate rugby player, started a youth flag rugby program in her hometown of Denville, N.J. “Since then, I haven’t put the ball down!” she said. In high school, she was identified by scouts for USA Rugby, the national governing body for women’s rugby. She represented the United States for several years before being recruited for Penn State’s highly ranked program, and was named MVP of the national championship game her first year.

Feury’s other passion, nursing, requires equal dedication. The curriculum is challenging and regimented, with most students following a prescribed sequence of courses to meet degree requirements. For Feury, the support of faculty members was crucial to her successful pursuit of both.

“My nursing instructors have made the challenge easier by being flexible with my schedule and following my success on the field,” she said. “When I go into class on Monday morning and they ask how my game went or comment on our win, it makes me feel like it is worth the effort.”

Learning to prioritize schoolwork, rugby and social life was key, said Feury. “After eight hours of clinical, I am usually running off to lift (weights), lecture and then practice. My weekends are usually spent traveling to away games or tournaments. My teammates always notice me studying flashcards on our long bus rides home. It’s all about making the most of the time I have.”

Likewise, Feury credits her rugby coaches for their support of her academic goals — support that was crucial on her journey to the premier international competition in women’s rugby.

“Making the World Cup has been a dream of mine since I was very young,” she said. “I have sacrificed so much for rugby, so seeing my dreams unfold this month has been indescribable. It is an honor to be able to represent my country at the highest level and I am so proud of what the team and I have accomplished so far.”

Also playing for the Eagles are current Penn State student Kayla Canett-Oca (a sophomore in the College of Health and Human Development) and alumnae Catherine Benson, Deven Owsiany, Christiane Pheil and Hope Rogers. As of Aug. 22, the Eagles were defeated by New Zealand in the semifinals, and will face France in the contest for third place on Aug. 26. The match will be broadcast live at noon EDT on NBC Sports Gold’s Rugby Pass.

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Beverly Molnar

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Last Updated September 06, 2017