Phaidra Knight Uses Rugby to Help Transform Lives of Incarcerated Youth

Retired international athlete Phaidra Knight achieved much success as a professional rugby player throughout her 20-year career. Now, the 2017 World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee is leveraging the sport as a vehicle for social transformation. 

Photo: Phaidra Knight

Photo: Phaidra Knight

A 2018 report from Prison Policy Initiative shows that everyday approximately 53,000 youth accused of committing minor offenses are held in detention facilities. Seeking to reduce criminal justice involvement among youth, Knight started Peak Unleashed, a nonprofit organization that aims to bring leadership and youth development resources to incarcerated and sexually exploited populations. 

“That’s been a vision of mine for many years to really make a difference and give an opportunity to particularly the incarcerated population,” Knight said. “We can give them a different lease on life and provide them with a great network that they can connect with a tribe community.”

The three-time Rugby World Cup team member and 2010 Player of the Decade previously worked as a director and coach at Play Rugby USA, an Olympic nonprofit organization that uses rugby as a tool for youth development and empowerment. Knight has also served as a coach at Rikers Island, a juvenile detention center in New York City, where she organized rugby training sessions and CrossFit workouts for young adults. 

Knight is also a passionate advocate for women’s equality in sports. A member of the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) Board of Trustees, Knight has spent many years supporting the organization’s work, beginning when she was an intern with WSF during law school. Knight has also spent time lobbying in Washington, D.C., on behalf of WSF and female athletes.

A Georgia native and University of Wisconsin Law School graduate, Knight also serves on USA Rugby’s Board of Directors and as an analyst for NBC Sports, ESPN, and FloRugby. In addition, she speaks regularly to audiences about fitness and childhood obesity as well as bullying prevention.