Elona Williams is quick, has great moves, and she likes to hit people. Football is not much of an option for the 4.0 grade point average student, so rugby is right up her alley. Photo by Jason Lewis
Williams said that she has not modeled any of her juke moves after anybody. They are all original. Photo by Jason Lewis
Student Athlete of the Week: View Park’s Elona Williams
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
When Elona Williams carries around her oval ball, which looks somewhat like an American football, many people will ask her, “So…you play rugby?”
Williams has a simple reply for them.
The next logical question is if she plays tackle rugby. Again, her reply is simple.
“Yes…full on tackle.”
When asked if she likes hitting people, like a football player, Williams offered another simple answer.
“Yes…it just makes it that much more enjoyable.”
Williams grew up playing sports with the boys, and football was one of her favorites. She never played Pop Warner, but she did play tackle football with her friends, and she has thought about playing high school football.
“When I was a kid I always played with boys, so I was never shy about playing sports or getting scratches,” Williams said.
Williams started playing basketball at a young age, and she played at Rancho Cienega Park throughout her childhood. But she found her calling when a friend encouraged her to play rugby two years ago. Her friend knew that she could play football, but without any girl’s football teams, rugby looked like the next best thing.
After joining the Southern California rugby team, it did not take long before Williams knew that she found her passion. As an 8th grader she played on a team with mostly high school students, and she was only one of two girls from the 8th grade class who were selected to make a trip to play in Washington D.C.
Williams made the All Star team her very first year.
“She’s an exceptional athlete,” said Stuart Krohn, head rugby coach at View Park. “Athletically she is well beyond her years as well. She is strong, has good size, and the ability to compete. She was playing with high school students while in the 8th grade and she was really fearless. Her teammates were really impressed by her and immediately took her in with them.”
Rugby is a grueling sport, which is why Krohn has been so impressed by Williams.
“Rugby is a physically and emotionally demanding sport because you have to face full contact,” Krohn said. “She had the ability to face all those emotions that she had to deal with while having to physically interact and compete with those girls. It was pretty exceptional stuff.”
In rugby, players play both offense and defense, just like in basketball or soccer. When asked which part of the game she likes to play the most, she gave a straight to the point answer.
“Offense, of course,” Williams said. “You get the ball and go. The best part is juking people. You go that way, the girl falls, and you’re like, ‘oh, I’m gone.’”
Because rugby and American football have certain similarities, especially when the player is carrying the ball, one would think that Williams would model her juke moves after some of the best running backs and wide receivers in football, but that’s not the case. When asked if she modeled her moves after a Barry Sanders, or another great player, she said:
“No, my juke moves are pretty original. I just do it. If I see you coming at me, and you think you’re about to get me, I’m just going to go away from you.”
As much as Williams likes offense, she does not shy away from defense, and she takes pride in her tackling abilities.
“The other girls try to act all hard, so you want to tackle them and make sure that they don’t score so you can win the game,” Williams said.
In rugby, high tackles, which includes blows to the chest and head area, are illegal, so being able to go low on a defender is important.
“My technique is to grab their legs, because they’ll go down, big or little,” Williams said. “You have to put cheek to cheek. Which is basically your cheek to the side of their butt.”
This past season Williams played on both View Parks’ varsity and JV teams. Because of her age, 15, she had to play on the JV team, but she was also allowed to play varsity, who played their games right after the JV game. She would play the entire JV game and then play about half of the varsity game.
As much as Williams loves rugby, she has not left basketball behind. Last year she played on View Park’s JV team, and this coming season, her sophomore year, she’s moving up to the varsity team where she’ll have a chance to earn a lot of playing time as a guard.
Williams is excelling at a high level in sports, but she has a strong understanding that being an athlete will only get her so far, which is why she carries a 4.0 grade point average.
“Some athletes think that they just want to make a certain grade so that they can play, but I’m not thinking just to play,” Williams said. “I actually want to have good grades.”
School has not been much of a challenge to Williams, mostly because she does the work, which makes it a lot easier for her to get good grades. She gets upset if she does not receive an A.
English is Williams’ favorite subject, and she loves to read mysteries and non-fiction.
“I like to read stuff about black people… I’m not going to lie,” Williams said with a grin on her face. “Black history stuff, like, wow, that really happened? So it’s good to know where I came from.”
Williams’ teachers have also noticed that she is gifted in the classroom.
“As a student, Elona was exceptional,” said Krohn, who was also Williams’ 8th grade English teacher. “Her abilities were well beyond her years. The level of her perceptions when we’re talking about literature, the kind of literature that she was reading, and her writing abilities were just exceptional.”
Juggling athletics and schoolwork is not enough for Williams, so she looks for activities to take up her time. She just finished up with the Tavis Smiley Institute, which is a leadership camp.
“What I took from that is that there are different ways of being a leader,” Williams said. “You don’t have to be always out there. I always thought that I was not a good leader because I was not very expressive. But I can be quite and still be a leader. I can lead by example.”
Next week she’ll be heading to the Tiger Woods Learning Center for a weeklong science camp in Irvine.
After high school Williams would like to attend either USC or Georgetown, and being a great student/athlete will help her get there, or to any other prestigious school.
Being a student athlete is a very tough thing, especially for the individuals who excel at a high level at both of them.
“That’s probably the hardest thing for kids to do,” Krohn said. “The kids that make those decisions to balance school and athletics, and I imagine she does other things as well, those are some really difficult decisions. While other kids are playing or goofing off, these kids are hitting the books or training. Those decisions are very difficult, and that’s what in my mind makes Elona a leader for other kids to follow.”?
Williams is on the right path, and seeing that the last two View Park rugby team captains were accepted into Ivy League universities, Williams’ future is looking pretty good.
Up next for Williams is being a part of the international rugby team that will tour New Zealand in the spring. She has already played on the international team, and was the only player from South Los Angeles to try out for it.
“She’ll do what she has to do to make that team,” Krohn said. “She’s that type of kid. She knows what she wants, so she’s willing to make her schedule work to get what she wants. She wants to play rugby, she wants to travel, she wants to be a part of that scholarship program, she’s going to make sure she keeps her grades up. She’s just one of those kids that it is important to get good grades and do well in school. It’s just in her.”
Williams is in the position to excel in sports and academics because she has a strong support system at home.
“She’s a good student,” said Tori Bailey, Williams’ mother. “As long as she keeps the grade point average up and keeps the sports balanced, then she’ll have a pretty good chance of getting into the school that she wants to get into.”
Bailey has had her concerns about her daughter playing such a rough sport, but she does not let her daughter see it.
“They won’t have fear if you don’t have fear,” Bailey said. “You’re going to have many more knocks in life, so you have to just keep going.”
Being fearless in many endeavors of life has helped Williams become an outstanding member of our community.
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