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Six Words Of Wisdom From Angela Ruggiero

By Brandon Penny | Aug. 16, 2014, 10:31 a.m. (ET)

Angela Ruggiero poses with the 2014 U.S. Youth Olympic Women's Rugby Team at the team's jersey ceremony on Aug. 16, 2014 in Nanjing, China.

NANJING, China -- Angela Ruggiero understands the definition of pioneer. As one of the first women to play ice hockey in the Olympic Winter Games, she has experienced what it is like to pave the way and be an ambassador for her sport. Naturally, Ruggiero was eager to speak to the U.S. Youth Olympic Women’s Rugby Team on the eve of the debut of women’s rugby at the Youth Olympic or Olympic Games.

In her role as Vice-Chair of the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission, Ruggiero is on the ground at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games to encourage athletes to participate in the Culture and Education Program, as well as represent the voice of the athletes on the IOC.

Angela Ruggiero meets with the 2014 U.S. Youth Olympic Women's Rugby Team over lunch in the athlete village on Aug. 16, 2014 in Nanjing, China.

The four-time Olympic ice hockey medalist served as a guest speaker at the rugby team’s jersey ceremony Saturday, but first she sat down for lunch with the 12-member U.S. team, where she told the Youth Olympians about her experience as an Olympian, answered questions and provided advice.

“It was very inspiring to get to meet Angela, to talk to her about her Olympic experiences and her career as a woman in a team sport,” said rugby player Tess Feury. “That was really cool. She was really helpful in helping us start to mentally prepare for our matches and giving us advice on how to compete in this high-intensity environment.”

Here are six of Ruggiero’s finest words of wisdom:

1. “Approach every game like there’s a scout in the stands and you’re trying to make the Olympic Team.” This piece of advice came from Ruggiero’s father and it struck a chord with some of the rugby athletes the most. Feury said: “No matter what game you have, what practice, pretend there’s an Olympic scout in the crowd and you’re trying to win gold right there. That’s what she told us to do so we’re all going to take that to training.”

2. “Have you ever played bubble hockey? I love this imagery of having something that shields you from the rest of the world. In bubble hockey, it’s the bubble — you can kind of see the crowd, you can see what’s going on, you can hear the crowd but it’s muffled. You know things are going on around you, but what are you focused on? The game — right now, the present moment. Don’t play for Rio in two years; don’t play for tomorrow. Play for today.”

3. “Rugby sevens is 14 minutes, it’s a short game. Every moment is going to count for you guys. Everything that you do and everything your teammates do is going to affect one another. Be as focused as you can and do whatever head games you need to do to be focused.”

4. “At the most elite level, the biggest difference isn’t the body — it’s the mind. It’s who can use their body by utilizing what’s going on upstairs.”

5. “Play as a team. You can’t do it alone; rely on your teammates. Talk to each other out on the field, recognize what’s going on. You’re going to need each other for different reasons. Draw strength from that. If you get through the next few days and you rely on each other and you’re successful, you guys will know each other for the rest of your lives because you’ll have shared such a special moment and such a unique experience that you’ll never forget. So make sure you believe in yourselves first.”

6. "Having women’s hockey in the Olympics changed everything for our sport. That's something you have to consider. You're pioneers. You're setting the stage for future. It's a really cool thing to know you're an ambassador. Back home, they’ll know about rugby even before Rio because of you. You're an inspiration. I know you don't want the pressure, but you should never forget you're an ambassador.”

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Angela Ruggiero