Phaidra Knight, World Rugby Hall of Famer, founder of PeaK Unleashed, and Mixed Martial Artist Expresses the Importance of Equality and Feeling Limitless Regardless of Age and Circumstances, Episode 17


Originally from a small rural town in Georgia, Phaidra Knight, for nearly 18 years, traveled the globe as a professional rugby player, establishing herself as one of the premier players in the sport. In this episode, she shared the many unique experiences she had both on and off the field. And she explained how each athletic opportunity offered a new perspective and made her a better athlete. She also shared her passion for youth leadership and reminded us that even if we can impact one child out, that’s one person who we have helped shape the trajectory of their life. Every single person deserves equality and the opportunity to feel limitless, especially children. 

Phaidra has made three appearances in the Rugby World Cup and was selected as the top player in the world for her position in 2002 and 2006. In 2010, she was named the US Rugby Player of the Decade. Also, in 2010, she became an avid CrossFit competitor and, in 2013, a member of the United States Developmental Bobsled Team. And in November 2017, she was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. 

Phaidra is currently embarking on a new athletic endeavor, perhaps the most ambitious one in her life. She has set out to become a World Champion Mixed Martial Artist by the time she becomes a half centurion. She started training as a mixed martial artist in June of 2019 and has been devoted fulltime to it since. She trains at the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City. 

Meanwhile, in 2019, Phaidra founded PeaK Unleashed, a non-profit organization devoted to cultivating youth leadership and development through Rugby with an emphasis on the incarcerated and sexually exploited populations. She is also a keynote and motivational speaker, and TV/Media sports broadcaster. She serves on the USA Rugby Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees for the Women’s Sports Foundation.

With a passion for fashion and a powerful voice in equality for girls and women in sports, Phaidra will launch the PSK Collective an inclusive apparel line in the fall of 2020. What’s more, Phaidra will be making her big-screen debut later this year in the movie “Bruised,” starring and directed by Halle Berry. And later this spring, the Global Sports Institute of Arizona State University will film a documentary featuring Phaidra’s life journey. All the while, Phaidra pursued law earlier on in her career at the University of Wisconsin. Phaidra is unstoppable and so inspiring on so many levels!

Tune in to hear Phaidra’s thoughts pertaining to:

  • How the COVID-19 pandemic makes it clear that we need to obtain perspective and learn how we can do better in the future. (6:00)
  • Phaidra talked about the moment she got the notice that she was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. (7:56)
  • Phaidra answers the question, “Do the reasons to get into sports differ for girls (intrinsic) and boys (extrinsic)?” (9:47)
  • Her journey as a power athlete who got into basketball earned a Hall of Fame title in Rugby, and explored bobsledding. (14:00)
  • The contrasts and similarities carry over across various sports, including foot and hand positioning. (28:19)
  • Training never stops even during a pandemic: Phaidra continues her MMA training and chooses to focus on the things she can control; she points to the folks in the Olympics and how she feels for them, given that in one year some of them won’t be competing and fulfilling their dreams. (29:47)
  • Youth leadership and the mission and purpose of PeaK Unleashed. (31:06)
  • Phaidra talks of the influence and push by her family: I know their drive is the reason why I am a Rugby Hall of Famer….I was pushed as a kid…and that’s why I am who I am!!! (36:19)
  • Learn how your cooperation can support Phaidra’s non-profit, PeaK Unleashed; there are many creative ways to pitch in. Find out how. (45:28)

I ask Phaidra: What’s your take on the low standards we place on inner-city or small-town kids with few resources? 

Listen to hear how Phaidra thinks about the low expectations we put on some children.

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa helps movers and shakers up to those in the corner office rediscover what makes them unique so that they can land their dream job in a forward-thinking company where their ideas are listened to, valued, and supported.

She brings insights from having worked in 16-business units (including Human Resources) in NY, Paris, and London. Additionally, in her former corporate career, she worked on billion-dollar brands for P&G and on IBM for Ogilvy & Mather. Later, as the founder and CEO of Career Outcomes Matter, Melissa created a 3-step “sellable strengths” process which has been the centerpiece of her clients' results.

Melissa applies this method consistently to support mid-level professionals up to the c-suite to get into Fortune Global 500 organizations and agencies. She studied Psychology at NYU and earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

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