Kristine Sommer announces retirement, with goals still set on the future of women's rugby

Kristine Sommer
Kristine Sommer

USA Women’s Eagle Kristine Sommer is stepping away from the pitch after 14 years and more than six years with the USA Rugby national team.

A pioneer and great ambassador for the women’s game, the 25-capped player will continue her involvement as an alumni, administrator and through the XV Foundation. 

Sommer began her rugby career at 18 years old with dorm mates at the University of California Santa Barbara. She went on to win two Division I Club Championship titles with Seattle Rugby, the first in 2016 before she was selected to debut with the USA Sevens in Dubai. Sommer was also among the first U.S. women to accept a professional contract to play with the Premier 15s in the United Kingdom, leading the way for what is now over 20 USA Eagles competing overseas. Sommer made her Women’s 15s debut in the summer of 2017 against Canada. 

Following her first cap, Sommer was selected for Rugby World Cup 2017 in Ireland, where she helped the team finish fourth. She remained with the Women’s Eagles for the next five years, and was again selected to the Rugby World Cup roster for New Zealand in 2021 (playing in 2022). 

Sommer noted on her retirement: “I’ve been playing rugby for 15 years. I think I’ve experienced it all: hard work and exhilaration, injury and self-improvement, comradery, crushing defeat, soaring victory and everything in between. I’ve played for regional pride with clubs in Seattle and London, and I’ve fought for national pride around the world. Through it all, I’ve built the most amazing community of friends and mentors anyone could ever ask for. It has been both harder than I ever predicted and even more rewarding than I could have hoped for. And now, it’s time for me to hang up my boots. I’m retiring from national and international play. But my work is not done.”

Women’s Eagles Head Coach Rob Cain on Sommer’s commitment to USA Rugby: “Kristine has pushed boundaries on and off the pitch for the USA Eagles. She has worked tremendously hard to develop herself and her game and had a very successful club career. She has consistently raised the standards of her peers around her on the pitch and has left the jersey in a better place than she found it. Kristine has undertaken some extraordinary work off the pitch with the XV Foundation, raising much needed money for the players she calls her teammates, all while excelling in her full time career. On the pitch her legacy will be a smart lineout leader with a physical edge, and off the pitch it will continuing financial support of players to represent their country through the XV Foundation.” 

While playing, Sommer dedicated her time to the XV Foundation, which she co-founded with fellow USA Eagle Alycia Washington. The foundation focuses on continually funding and supporting the USA Women’s 15s program to cover personal expenses for the athletes through the 2021 Rugby World Cup and into the future. 

Sommer on her continued involvement with the women’s game: “Though my impact will no longer be on the pitch, I ask everyone to join me in supporting all the players looking to wear the same USA jersey I have. We have an opportunity to create something amazing – a professionalized USA Women’s Rugby. With the USA hosting the Rugby World Cups in 2031 and 2033, there is no time like now to accelerate our support and engagement – and show the world our commitment to the sport and the women who play it. I intend to continue my position as a representative of the USA Rugby Players Association for as long as I can, and I’ll continue to serve the national team and player pathways through the XV Foundation. Everyone I know in the rugby community is extremely driven. When we set a goal, we obsess over it: but there are always so many obstacles – especially in women’s rugby. Concerns like work, finances, and travel distract from our ability to focus on the game. XV Foundation is a support network of fans, friends, and family who provide the financial support needed to ensure our players can be their best because they are always training at their best. We weren’t sure how long the foundation would be around, but thanks to a huge outpouring of support and attention, we’ll keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible until USA Women’s rugby is fully professionalized and funded.

I may be retiring from this level of play, but I will never be done with rugby. There are many ways to make an impact and you’ll definitely see me supporting my local rugby community as much as I can – maybe I’ll even pick up some coaching and mentorship.

Thanks to all who have watched, supported, coached, taught, played with, cheered for, and fed me over the years. I will never be able to fully describe the amazing impact you have made on my life. Please, continue your support and help make an impact on the sport that has given us all so much.

See you out there,

Kristine Sommer, USA Eagle no. 264”