TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Ask a rugby player what’s good to bring along for a match and you might hear a strange answer: A medic. For one player, though, it’s a requirement.
Staff Sgt. Stefani Loisel, an aerospace medical technician with the 60th Surgical Services Squadron, plays as a wing on the U.S. Air Force Rugby team and is a single mother to two boys, aged four and five.
“I am beyond blessed to be a mother, and I’m even more blessed to be a mother that’s able to still play rugby,” Loisel said.
Loisel is passionate about her job, she cares for people and she loves being a mother. Something we all tend to do with life, though, as Loisel puts it, is always forgetting the pieces of us — like our passions outside of work and parenting – because life happens.
“Rugby gives me life again,” Loisel said. “Rugby is my sport to finally be Stefani again, because I’m always Staff Sgt. Loisel or mom … I never really get to be Stefani, so when I’m on the field, able to be Stefani — number seven — it brings me back to me.”
Loisel’s father served in the Air Force. He retired as a chief master sergeant and instilled in his daughter the pride that comes with serving in the Air Force
To keep her head on her shoulders, in 2019, Loisel went to the Air Force sports website and filled out an application for the rugby team. Shortly afterward, her and 27 other candidates were brought together for an in-person try-out and she was selected to be on the team. In March of 2020, right before the pandemic, the team came together for a tournament, but on the first day of camp, the excitement of playing quickly diminished as COVID-19 cancelled the season until further notice.
With the season at a halt, Loisel hit her garage gym. She put on more muscle during the time off than ever before, determined she was going to be ready for when they could play again.
Of all 12 members on the team, Loisel said she was the least experienced.
“Before I was in the Air Force, I played Rugby for a team in Guam and carried a record for most tries scored in a season,” she said. “But even with that experience, compared to the rest of the women on the USAF Rugby team, I had to work to earn my spot.”
As the COVID-19 vaccine became available, the USAF Rugby Team and Loisel were able to play together in June 2021 to compete in the Annual Armed Forces Women’s Rugby Championship in Wilmington, North Carolina and the team secured second place. The Armed Forces Sports program directly contributes to the recruitment, retention and readiness of service members.
Loisel explained that being able to come together as a team and play was a major accomplishment to not only the team, but to her personally as well because her boys were able to watch her play. She made a lot of tackles and even scored a few tries, rugby-speak for points.
“I want to show that just because you become a mother or father doesn’t mean your life gets put on hold,” she said. “You still get to live out your dreams and do the things that make you happy.”
Playing for the USAF Rugby Team isn’t something she takes for granted. Earlier this year, Loisel was tasked for a short-notice deployment. If she deployed, that meant no rugby and no seeing her boys for half a year. She took her boys to her parents in Virginia, then her deployment was cancelled, but because the rugby tournament was around the corner, she decided to keep the boys in Virginia so they could get extra time with their grandparents.
Growing up, her father’s service moved her all over the world, so she doesn’t call anywhere home except where her boys are. Giving her parents extra time with their grandbabies is something she has to take advantage of because they live on the other side of the nation.
“Raising the boys alone definitely has its challenging days, but I was really blessed with two amazing kids,” she said. “Mom is their favorite person so they always want to do something to help and be there. I got really lucky, you know, being best friends — we’re a really tight unit.”
At the end of the day, Loisel is proud of her accomplishments from serving in the Air Force to raising two boys on her own and being on the rugby team.
“It’s all about work-life balance,” she said. “I can still be Stefani and be a good mom.”
If you're interested in becoming a member of any of the Armed Forces Sports teams, you can find more information on their website: https://armedforcessports.defense.gov/