Q&A with Alex Rigsby

Q&A with Alex Rigsby

Team USA goalie Alex Rigsby poses in front of hockey goal

Where did you grow up?
Delafield, WI

What is your earliest memory of playing hockey?
I first learned to skate when I was 5 years old and I was immediately hooked. I loved the competitiveness of it and, of course, thought it was so much fun.

The next year I got to try the goalie equipment on during the rotation of the gear and I absolutely loved it. I played on an all-boys team and I loved “stopping the boys” and I feel fortunate to still be playing the sport I am so passionate about.

So, playing in the Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was six years old when the women first represented the sport of ice hockey and USA won Gold in the 1998 Winter Olympics. As I grew up and began to truly understand what it would mean to represent the USA and compete for a gold medal, playing in the Olympics quickly turned into my ultimate goal.

The women’s team was my inspiration growing up and I have dedicated my entire life to the sport making countless sacrifices along the way.

What is your first memory of watching the Olympics? 
My earliest memory was actually watching the 2002 Salt Lake City Opening Ceremony and listening to R. Kelly sing “World’s Greatest.” That song instantly became my new favorite song and I remember watching the women in the gold medal game vs. Canada and [I was] late to a practice because I didn’t want to miss [the game].

Do you remember a “breakthrough” moment in your hockey career when you realized you could make it to the Olympic Games?
With USA Hockey, we have the opportunity to attend National Development camps starting at the age of 14, and when I was 16 years old after a development camp I got invited to attend the Under-18 USA August Festival held in Lake Placid. I always believed in myself and my abilities to someday earn a spot on the National Team, but receiving that invite officially made me feel like I was finally en route to turning my dream into a reality.

Who in your family has had the biggest influence on your life and athletic career? 
Without a doubt, my mom and dad are a major reason why I am where I am today. My parents have traveled the country with me when I played boys AAA hockey from 5th to 12th grade and they continue to travel to watch me wherever and whenever they can.

They even drove me two hours to practice and home games for two years when they let me play for a team in Chicago in 8th and 9th grade. They have been there for me through all the triumphs and heartbreaks, and they have always believed in me and my abilities. They have always supported my ultimate goal and have helped me strive to play at my greatest potential.

Within the hockey world, who has had the biggest impact on you?    
[My teammate] Brianna Decker because she continuously demonstrates what it takes to play at the elite level and be the best in the world. Every day she comes prepared to compete and out work everyone.

What’s something cool, weird or intense about your sport that people don’t normally see? What’s the hardest part of your sport?
Something cool is the bond you are able to form with your 22 other teammates. We are extremely lucky to have such an amazing culture on the USA team and it makes it that much more fun to compete as a group.

Also, I think goaltending is placed in its own category – a sport within a sport. It is a position not many people understand and you always have to bring your best. If you make a mistake a red light goes on and a number pops up on the scoreboard. I think what separates good from great goalies in the end is how tough you are between your ears.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?  
Stay present and focus on my task at hand.

What obstacles have you had to overcome in your life? 
I had major hip surgery [when I was] 18 and 19 years old. I was originally told I would never play at the elite level again. It was a major setback in my career where I spent months in rehab and overcoming challenges and obstacles along the way. Challenges like learning how to walk and skate again.

Dropping into a butterfly again was one of the most terrifying things, but I had to trust that I was far enough along in the healing process that I wouldn’t mess anything up. I also had the mindset that I was going to come back even stronger than I was before and feel I did accomplish that.

How much time do you spend training each day?
Weight room: 2 hours
On Ice: 1.5 hours
Stretch/Reflection: 1 hour
Film/Reading: 1 Hour

How do you work to achieve your daily goals?
Every day I push myself to be 1% better. I use being cut from the [2014] Olympic Team to drive me on and off the ice. It is up to me to hold myself accountable all day every day making my own training schedule and fueling my body with the proper nutrition. I continue to push myself to gain that slight edge – both mentally and physically – over my competition.

When you’re not with your U.S. teammates where do you train?
I train in Madison, Wisconsin with my strength coach, Jim Snider, and with the other NHL players who come back to Madison to train. At times I will also jump on [the ice] with the NHL players and I also skate with my goalie coach, Larry Clemons. I get most of my [off-season] games by playing men’s league hockey.

What’s the most grueling workout you’ve ever done?
Stadiums at Camp Randall at Wisconsin and the “Strong Man Circuit” with the NHL guys who come back to Wisconsin to train is right behind that. To name a few, it involves sled pushes/pulls, ropes and carries. I feel like a very strong woman afterwards!

What are some of your favorite workout songs?
“Levels” by Avicii, “Tuesday” by Burak Yeter (feat. Danelle Sandoval), “Closer” by The Chainsmokers, “Yeah!” by Usher and “The Greatest” by Sia

Are there any misconceptions about women’s hockey you would like to clear up?
Not all goalies are weird.

Do you have any set pre-game rituals?
I listen to my own music on the way to the rink and up until we do off-ice warmups. When I get to the rink, I will carry a tennis ball around with me up until the game and tape a stick before every game. I throw the tennis ball against the wall after off-ice warmups.

Are you superstitious?
I get dressed the same way and carry my tennis ball around, but that’s about it.

What is your biggest fear when competing?
Letting my team down.

Who is your most interesting teammate and why?
Kendall Coyne because she is finishing her masters, works for the [Chicago] Blackhawks, engaged to an NFL player [Denver Broncos’ offensive lineman Michael Schofield], and is an incredible hockey player, teammate, and friend.

Do you have any nicknames?
Alex or Rigs. Just short for my name and basically all my teammates will call me Rigs. Kacey Bellamy will call me Riglet and that came about from an old trainer.

Who are your biggest rivals?
Our biggest rivals are Canada and no matter what is at stake, it is always an extremely competitive and intense game.

What is your favorite perk of being an Olympic athlete?    
It’s the opportunity to represent my country at the highest possible stage while continuing to train and play the game I am so passionate about.

Have you been to South Korea? What are you excited to experience in PyeongChang?
No, but I look forward to being on the ocean while surrounded by mountains. I think they are going to do an amazing job sharing their culture with the world. I also want to see as many other events as possible without losing focus on what I am there to accomplish.

What will success look like for you in PyeongChang?    
To win a gold medal.

Who are your Olympic role models?
Cammi Granato and Angela Ruggiero

Where did you play your college hockey? 
I played for the Wisconsin Badgers from 2010-2014.

[Rigsby won an NCAA National Championship with the Badgers in 2011, playing in 31 games and finishing with a record of 27 wins, 1 loss and two ties].

Are you a fan of any professional sport teams or players? 
Chicago Blackhawks

Do you have a celebrity crush?
Justin Timberlake

If you are to indulge, what’s your favorite food, snack and dessert?
My grandma’s homemade chicken and dumplings, peanut butter pretzels or yogurt-covered pretzels and ice cream.

Do you have any fears?
Spiders

Do you have any pets?
We have a family dog named Marley. He is a cockapoo and he is practically human. He has such a personality and I love going home and seeing him. He loves giving kisses.

What is your favorite social media platform?

I like Instagram because I love looking at photos. I like to post pictures of my dog, family and friends.

Do you like to travel? 
I love to travel and take in new cultures. When I was in 6th grade I traveled to Stockholm, Sweden with a select team where I stayed with a family for a week.

I was able to go to school with him and learn more about their culture while playing in a tournament. The boy was a goalie on the host team and I still keep in touch with him today.

What do you think you would be doing if you were not playing hockey?
I would like to run a non-profit organization or work with a sports organization, preferably hockey.

Have you become close friends with any competitors from other countries? What about any from South Korea in particular?
A former teammate and great friend of mine from the Wisconsin Badgers [Blayre Turnbull] plays for Canada, but other than that I have not formed any relationships with my competitors during my time on the National Team.

Did anyone ever tell you that you wouldn’t be able to play hockey?
Growing up the biggest thing I dealt with was being told that I wouldn’t be able to play another year with the boys because I was a girl. It motivated me that much more to prove to them that I deserved to be playing at that level no matter my gender.