Rugby Community Spotlight: Expatriate Ruggers

Pictured above: The Arnaudy children give Perry Baker the money raised from selling the USA jersey they won, which will be contributed to the Men’s Sevens program.

Thirteen years ago, Kara and Anthony Arnaudy moved to Hong Kong for work. Even though they were initially only assigned to be there for four years, the Arnaudys have embraced the journey and engrained themselves in expatriate life in the beautiful territory, raising their four young children there. “There are so many aspects we love about Hong Kong,” says Kara. “We live on the south side of the island near the beaches but can be in the busy central business district in 30 minutes, giving us the best of both worlds. The children have friends from all over the world and have had the opportunity to travel all over Asia.” Of course, there are also drawbacks to living abroad. Perhaps the most notable is the distance from family – the Arnaudys have family in both the United States and England, making it challenging to visit aside from very long trips. There’s also the difficulty of reimagining their kids’ childhood experience, one where many of the traditions Kara and Anthony experienced growing up – such as visiting pumpkin patches in the fall and riding bikes around the neighborhood – are not the cultural norm.

Thankfully, the Arnaudys have tight-knit communities in which they belong, including the rugby community. “We signed our oldest up for rugby when he turned four years old. He was followed by our next son and then our daughter. Our youngest daughter will start playing in August when she turns four. Their dad plays rugby, coaches and also referees the kids’ games. As an American mom, it took some time to get a hang of the rules – especially in contact. But now I’m an enthusiastic supporter and can safely cheer everyone on and occasionally know what I’m talking about!” Kara explains. The kids play for a team called Valley Fort with more than 500 other boys and girls aged four and up. The teams draw children from different schools across Hong Kong, which gives the Arnaudy children a great opportunity to meet new friends and see their school friends on the weekends. When asked what her children love most about rugby, Kara says, “Rugby involves seamless teamwork for successful play. It moves quickly, pushes you and tests your courage. But more important than the technical aspects of the sport, the tremendous sense of community with rugby and Hong Kong is the major reason everyone has taken to the sport.”

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For the Arnaudys, rugby has quickly become a major part of daily life, not only serving as an athletic outlet for their kids but also helping them build relationships and maintain some ties to American life. This April, for example, the family attended a breakfast with the Eagles prior to Hong Kong Sevens, hosted in conjunction with the U.S. Consul General. Kara says, “Hong Kong Sevens is a major highlight every year. The pinnacle of the weekend is getting the opportunity to meet the USA team for breakfast before the matches begin. We have enjoyed speaking with the players and getting to know them personally. The team is friendly, professional and approachable, and it has been a pleasure to watch them grow and improve. It is a telling sign that although the kids are half-British, they cheer for the Eagles (even when they are playing England!) because of their personal connection with the USA team.” Each year at the event, there is a raffle to help raise funds for the Men’s Sevens program, and this year the Arnaudys won an Eagles jersey. “It was too large for anyone in our family to wear, unfortunately! A friend at the breakfast offered to buy the jersey from us, so the kids got all of the players to sign it and we donated the money for the jersey to USA Rugby Trust.”

The Arnaudy family can also clearly see the growing interest in rugby in the United States, even from halfway across the globe. “We are delighted to hear about the growth of rugby in the U.S. and hope it continues. When we return to the U.S. eventually, we hope to be active participants in the rugby community there and for the children to continue playing the sport. We are encouraged that rugby clubs are popping up all over the U.S. and hope the kids can have a similar experience when we return,” Kara says.