rugby player Kala Parker ’95, with the ball, running
for a score at the national championship. (Pierre Lynch)
PROFILE—Kala Parker ’95 Bruised
and battered for rugby
Three times a week, Kala Parker ’95 streaks up a grassy
field with an oblong ball tucked under one arm as a winger on the
Pittsburgh women’s rugby team. Since picking up rugby two
years ago, Parker has discovered the thrill of a crunching tackle.
She never imagined that playing a full-contact sport with no padding
could be so much fun.
Parker, a doctor serving as a pediatric emergency medicine fellow
at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, is a lifelong competitive
athlete. She found success at track and basketball and was a national
collegiate cycling champion at Princeton. When her brother, Warrington
Parker ’86, a former Princeton rugby player, suggested she
try the sport, she decided she had enough speed and stamina to give
it a shot.
She quickly became hooked and won player-of-the-match in her first
game. Parker started scheduling her hospital rotations around practices.
Her co-workers can’t help but notice the bruises peppering
Parker’s body. As a joke, they decorated her office with a
digitally altered image of her lying in a hospital bed in a full-body
cast, a rugby ball in one bandaged arm, saying “I love rugby!”
“Rugby is totally worth the risk,” says Parker. “My
friends think I’m crazy, and that’s OK, because I am.
They also see how passionate I am about the game and know I would
never give it up.”
Last fall, Parker led the Pittsburgh Angels to a fourth-place
finish at nationals. In the opening play of the tournament, Pittsburgh
stole the ball and passed out to Parker on the wing. She dashed
80 meters up the field before a lone New Hampshire player attempted
to tackle her. Parker threw a stiff-arm to her chest and touched
the ball down, earning five points for Pittsburgh. “What a
rush!” she says.
As her fellowship comes to an end in July, Parker’s medical
career will take her away from her Pittsburgh teammates, but not
from the sport. She is looking for a job in San Francisco, where
she could play for the women’s contingent of the rugby club
her brother leads.
By Katy Rank
Katy Rank, a freelance writer in Pittsburgh, is working on
a book about women’s rugby.