Alyssa Cunningham’s rugby roots helped boost her confidence on and off the field. When Alyssa was diagnosed with dyslexia in middle school, she turned to rugby. “When I struggled in school, athletics became my outlet. I excelled at rugby, and it gave me the confidence to accept my strengths and weaknesses. My dyslexia taught me to be organized, efficient, and aware of my time, and it helped me understand that I must work hard to achieve my goals. I am no longer ashamed of my dyslexia because it is a part of me, and playing rugby helped me make peace with this,” said Cunningham. She began her rugby career at the young age of four, participating in a youth tag program her father started. She loved the game and already couldn’t wait to play tackle at the high school level. She played for the Catholic Memorial High School Crusaders for four seasons.
In her tenure with the Crusaders, she helped her team earn multiple trips to the state championship match, winning the title in 2017. She was named the Catholic Memorial High School Rookie of the Year for her play in the 2017-2018 season and was a three-time Wisconsin all-state selection. She played for the Midwest High School Thunderbirds Select Side team and made two tours to Ireland and Florida. She was named a USA High School All-American and an American Rugby Pro Training Center Summer Camp Representative in 2019 and 2020. In her senior season, she was named Catholic Memorial High School Rugger of the Year and etched her name in the records books as the overall scoring and kicking leader and second overall for tries scored. She finished the 2021 season with an invite to the USA Rugby flyhalf development camp and the U20 National Team camp in Colorado, as well as being named to the USA Rugby High School U18 National Team Pool. “As an incoming freshman, Aly came out for our school’s varsity rugby team.
Despite being young, she was the only freshman to start every match on that year’s state championship team. She then went on to play and win the Midwest Regional Championship and played in the national final that year against a team from Kahuku HS, Hawaii. She was a revelation for our team. Fearless, fast, and confident. She was the missing piece those talented teams needed. She worked so well with the upperclassmen and experienced leaders that they had complete faith in her to excel as well. She earned their respect,” said John Waliszewski, Catholic Memorial High School Varsity Girls Rugby Coach.
Alyssa graduated from Catholic Memorial High School with a 3.84 grade point average. She was a four-time honor roll recipient and received student achiever awards on two occasions. She was also a member of the National Honor Society and received a certificate of excellence in French. She was a four-year member of the Catholic Memorial student council and was a member, leader, and president of the Operation Michael club, which raises awareness for homelessness in the Waukesha, Wisconsin community. Cunningham’s additional extracurricular activities included volunteering for various philanthropies in her community and church. She participated in the alpine ski team and served as team captain in her junior and senior year. She was a four-time skiing MVP, first-team all-conference honoree, and skiing Wisconsin team selection for the Eastern Championship. She earned the state champion title for individual skiing on two occasions.
In 2021, she was named Catholic Memorial High School Senior Athlete of the Year. She also competed for the Southeastern Wisconsin Alpine Team and the Midwest Alpine Race league. Her academic and athletic excellence have led her to play rugby for Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. She will major in business and looks forward to learning more about accounting, management, and entrepreneurship. She would like to own her own business or franchise in the future. Athletically, she is determined to increase her strength and speed in the gym and at training. She wants to build her rugby IQ at the collegiate level and hopes it will lead her to represent the USA on the U20 squad.