She came to rugby straight from football, yet Sisy Quiroz loves what she has found in the oval game.
The Peruvian national team's goalkeeper for almost 10 years, Quiroz hung up her gloves and changed sports entirely. Now, as CEO of the Federación Peruana de Rugby, she oversees the renewed growth of the game in one of South America’s youngest rugby playing nations.
Challenging gender stereotypes – and football's domination
Lying on the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by the Andes Mountains, rugby's profile in this country of 33 million people is very small. As is the case in most of the region, football rules.
“There is almost a quarter of a million girls playing football in Peru,” opens Quiroz, who after her playing days and completing university, post-graduate studies, and a Master’s degree, left the corporate world to join sport.
After leading a successful social project with Women’s Football Sevens League, which enjoyed a large profile thanks to its push for open spaces with no discrimination, Quiroz was contacted by football’s global governing body FIFA.
Soon after, Quiroz joined the Peruvian Football Federation, where for close to a year she managed women’s football.
“There were a lot of barriers that needed breaking. It needed planning and a strategy and I arrived at a moment of change,” Quiroz tells World Rugby. “We had to work from the inside, changing the mentality that football is not only for men.”
A new Chairman came and Quiroz left, but knowing that she wanted to stay in sports. Of course, when one door closes, another one opens, and rugby was the opening she walked into.
“My time with football was of a lot of work, we made changes; it was a nice time. But now I am loving rugby.”
Quiroz knew about rugby through friends and had enjoyed the camaraderie, having once played in a friendly game trying to bring together football and rugby players.
As she was analysing options, it was suggested that she put her name forward when the job was advertised. Despite not having a rugby network, Quiroz was chosen and has been working non-stop since taking office.
“I found a federation wanting to grow, needing to work on its structures and develop an integral strategic plan. It is a great opportunity to develop and generate positive things. We have a lot of potential.”
Quiroz believes rugby is a sport that can be easily introduced using tag. “It is super fun for children, with minimum contact. That way, they can learn the basics. The goal is to get it (rugby) to grow, give it strength with age-grade events and tournaments for schools.”
Pandemic gives time to pause
The game has been stopped this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit Peru very hard, mostly in Lima, which is also rugby’s hotbed in the country.
Nonetheless, the time of no rugby has given Quiroz the headspace to fully comprehend the needs for growth.
“We are working on segmenting our clubs, teams and players so that we know what we must offer each in terms of support, services and development.”
"Our focus during COVID-19 has been training and education and we are launching the programme ‘Become the Heart of the Game’."
A profile will also help: “We need visibility, so that people know about the game. We also need more children playing the game.”
'A different kind of sport'
Having had multiple meetings in the last year, Quiroz is happy about how welcomed she was made in rugby. “No personal agendas, or egos. It is only about people trying to make their loved sport bigger.
“The game’s values were an instant impact for me. In rugby I found commitment, camaraderie, chivalry between men and women. In rugby they try to work together – rivalry stays on the field and that is hugely important. It allows us to be an example for future generations.”
Rugby has been an elite sport for many years, but now it is being developed in different strands of society, slowly reaching every corner of the country.
“We still have to make it a nationwide sport, through a development structure and a clear road map that we already have."
“Rugby has values that are positive. Rugby can include everyone with no discrimination – a different kind of sport.”
Despite her short time in the game, Quiroz was selected for World Rugby’s Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship earlier this year. The COVID-19 pandemic interfered with part of her plans, as she was planning to visit the Spanish Rugby Federation to understand how they managed their strategic plan and their development. She is already working with a mentor: Patricia Ramírez.
“Given that I haven’t played rugby, she is very important in giving me an expert vision. Her support is very important for my development in the game.”
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, regional training sessions were undertaken with great success, initially organised by Quiroz. Every national women's team was involved.
"The best players in South America were training together in an unprecedented space in which each country ran a training session."
"At the end of each session, we had a catch-up in which recognised players from each country shared their experiences with younger players. It was an entertaining place, very motivating, that became a unique place to bring South America together in the hardest of times."