Pathfinder helps power USAF rugby team to gold

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason W. Cochran
  • 501CSW/PA

While attending technical training, one of Airman First Class Lauren Belforti’s instructors told her about Air Force sports.

At the time neither of them knew that this would set Belforti on a path to playing in and winning the 2023 Armed Forces Women’s Rugby Championship.

“I grew up playing soccer, but was always overly aggressive and getting cards,” said Belforti, 422d Communications Squadron radio maintenance technician. “Then I went to Florida State University and while looking at women’s club soccer I saw women’s club rugby and thought I should go give that a shot. I fell in love with the sport, the aggression and how physical it is.”

After attending FSU, Belforti joined the Air Force and was off to tech school where a conversation with an instructor would lead her back to her passion.

“Since I was still in training, I couldn’t participate,” said Belforti. “So I just stayed up to date on [Air Force Services Center] Instagram and waited until they opened up applications, submitted one and got selected to go to training camp.”

At the two-week camp a selection process occurred wherein Belforti was chosen to play at the Armed Forces Women’s Ruby Championship, which was held at Ogden Park in Wilmington, N.C.

“Our first game was against the Army, there were a lot of people there so I was pretty nervous,” said Belforti. “It didn't help that before I got put in, one of our players snapped her leg.”

Despite the nerves, Belforti and the team dismantled Army 24-5, ending a 12-match win streak for them. After that, they tied the Marines and beat both the Coast Guard and the Navy, securing the Air Force’s first-ever rugby gold medal.

“I was voted rookie MVP by the team,” said Belforti. “It was a really uplifting experience. We were all from different ranks and career fields, but it didn't matter. We were out there to compete and have fun.”

USAF sports programs are open to all Air and Space Force uniformed personnel in Active Duty, the Air National Guard or Air Reserves. More information regarding participation can be found at:

“I would tell anyone to go out and submit an application,” said Belforti. “You never know where it could lead you, whether that be being picked up for training camp or competing, it's worth it.”