Capt. Adekunbi Adewunmi, 50th Operations Group standardizations branch chief, made the Women’s All-Armed Forces Rugby team and placed fourth in the Lupus Intus Elite Women’s 7s Tournament in Hanover, New Hampshire, Sept. 2-3.
After enduring an application process, her group commander notified her of her acceptance to an Armed Forces trial camp and subsequently to represent the Air Force 7s team.
“It was such an honor to be selected to play rugby with a group of ladies with such incredible talent, and for a coach of the caliber and experience of Andrew Locke,” she said. “I was so proud to be able to represent the Air Force and the military to players and coaches of top rugby academies across the country.”
Andrew Locke, coach of the Armed-Forces team, said he was “immensely impressed” with her during training.
“While she may come across as a little more on the shy and quiet side, once she takes the field and the game starts, she is fierce,” Locke said. “She was pound-for-pound one of our toughest players, and made countless tackles that prevented opponents from scoring.”
Locke added Adewunmi was flexible, regularly playing different positions.
“She stepped up big time and went beyond my expectations,” he said. “It was a pleasure to watch her fly across the field on defense to cut down opposing runners from the sweeper position. I can say she is an awesome team player and very supportive of her teammates.”
Adewunmi said the rugby community is like a family to her, something she has never experienced playing any other sport.
“I played recreational, high school, club and a little college soccer, but the closeness I feel with my rugby teammates is unmatched,” she said. “No matter where I move to in the U.S. or abroad, I know I will have that same community as well. It really is an amazing thing and I hope to be involved in playing or coaching for a long time to help pass that on.”
John Warner, Adewunmi’s coach for the Denver Black Ice Rugby Football team for two years, said rugby is not only physical, but mental.
“Kunbi has a sharp mind,” Warner said. “In the short time she’s been playing, I’ve seen her absorb the strategies and complexities of the game as quickly as anyone I’ve coached.”
Warner added not only does Adewunmi have mental toughness, she has the physicality to be successful in the sport.
“She plays like she’s twice her size, and tackles fearlessly,” he said. “Typically playing at the fullback position, she’s the last line of defense, with the unenviable job of making saving tackles on players with a full head of steam. She absolutely lays her body on the line, and is one of the best tacklers on the team, despite being one of the smallest.”
Adewunmi serves as a member of the board as the secretary and one of the captains for Black Ice.
“She doesn’t say much, but when she speaks, her teammates listen,” Warner said. “She’s a leader in the best, most effective way possible, by example.”
Adewunmi stressed the importance of having an open mind and positive attitude.
“We have women of all experience levels playing together and playing under a structure that is different from most teams, so it is important to embrace change, learn and help others learn too,” she said.
Adewunmi’s favorite part of rugby is being part of a different kind of family.
“No matter how hard the tackles, or how devastating the stiff arms, you’ll see smiles and hugs before, after and sometimes during the games,” she said. “I’ve never felt as close with an athletics team as I have with my rugby teams, and it is heartening for me as I approach an assignment change. I know the connections I’ve made through playing rugby reach out all throughout the country, and it will never feel like I’m starting over.”