Leslie Schroeder (second from right) talks in a huddle during testing during Season 3 of the Next Olympic Hopeful on July 27, 2019 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Growing up on a dairy farm in a small town in Texas, Leslie Schroeder had what many would consider an atypical childhood, but to her it was perfect.
“It was a simpler life,” said Schroeder. “It helps you realize what is important.”
Schroeder says the early mornings and the late nights spent outside helping on the farm helped shape her into the athlete she is today.
“It’s a lot of hard work” said Schroeder. “Dairy farming is up in the morning and staying up late at night every single day. It doesn’t matter if it’s rain or shine, Christmas, your birthday – it doesn’t really matter, but it’s the work mentality that I believe gives me an advantage on my competitors.”
An athlete for most of her life, Schroeder has participated in a variety of sports and traveled all over to compete.
She was a volleyball star for her high school and was planning to continue her career in college.
“I had done a lot of different sports, but I was planning on playing volleyball in college,” said Schroeder. “I had played it for 12 years at that point and it was my favorite sport all throughout high school.”
But along the way, Schroeder found a new sport – rugby.
“I went to one rugby practice and it just felt right,” said Schroeder. “I don’t know how else to explain it. It was a bunch of really competitive women who weren’t afraid to get muddy. They were just my type of people.”
From that moment on, Schroeder has been an active member of several rugby teams.
“I think rugby has made me an even better team player,” said Schroeder. “The emphasis on team in rugby is super important. You learn to respect each other.”
Hoping to take her rugby career to the next level, Schroeder decided to the apply for “Milk Life presents, The Next Olympic Hopeful,” the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s talent identification and transfer program, where athletes are tested to see if a variety of Olympic sports would suit them.
Schroeder was selected as a finalist for Season 3 of Next Olympic Hopeful. This season contestants competed for spots in six participating sports: bobsled, cycling, rowing, rugby, skeleton and weightlifting.
One winner selected for each sport goes on to attend national team training camps with the opportunity to advance in that sport. Watch Season 3 on Dec. 29 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
“I was pretty shocked when I got the acceptance,” said Schroeder. “Some days it hits me, and some days it doesn’t. I’m just taking everything in.”
Schroeder said she put in a lot of extra time and work before rugby practice.
“I started doing more sprints before rugby practice,” said Schroeder. “My teammates would always see me out there training before practice. It would be amazing if I could win, but it would mean just as much to be noticed for my hard work.”
But for her family, she said winning would mean so much more.
“I think it would just solidify that all the time and money, traveling to and from basketball and volleyball tournaments, track meets, you name it were all worth it,” said Schroeder.