It is only five years since Bárbara Pichot first picked up her backpack and began travelling around Argentina in the hope of raising the profile of the country’s female players.
Pichot had been energised to do so following a conversation with one of her three younger brothers, the former World Rugby Vice-Chairman and Argentina captain, Agustín.
Her daughter had recently left home for university, and she had enquired about how she could best serve the game. “Can you help women’s rugby become visible?” her sibling replied.
Pichot has since dedicated her time to doing exactly that. Within a year, she had set up a team, the BARBIRIANS, and a competition for women in Argentina.
Three years later, in August 2020, Pichot joined Sudamérica Rugby as its first Women’s Rugby Coordinator, taking on responsibility for the game in 16 countries.
It is a time-consuming job – Pichot estimates she takes part in around 120 Zoom calls every week – but her workload increased in March when she enrolled on the Capgemini Women in Rugby Leadership Programme.
“It's a very big responsibility,” Pichot told World Rugby. “I started five years ago with women's rugby and two years now in my position.
“I'm leading with an example because for me it's a responsibility, a very big responsibility and second of all, it's a very big commitment and a very big effort.
“I'm working 24-seven with rugby. This is not just a part time job.”
Pichot admits that she has an intense personality. “When I do something, I want to do it well,” she explained.
“With this intensity, I travel, I work, I talk to the women in rugby, to the presidents of the unions.”
However, her involvement in the Capgemini Women in Rugby Leadership Programme has required Pichot to “stop my car” as she has enrolled on the FIFA/CIES International Programme in Sports Management.
Pichot also travelled to New Zealand last month to attend Rugby World Cup 2021 and the Women in Rugby International Summit and Events, while taking part in meetings on behalf of Sudamérica Rugby.
Naturally, while there she also found time to fly to Fiji, where she visited training sessions and sought advice on how best to grow participation numbers in 15s.
“I went to Fiji because I was invited by the CEO and I wanted to watch how they trained in Fiji and the problems [they faced in] going to 15s,” Pichot said.
“That was my problem, how to grow from sevens to 15s (in South America) … I don’t want to hurry it.”
Pichot has documented her experiences on the Programme through her Instagram account, something she hopes will help inspire more women to follow in her footsteps.
“I want to give an example, if I can, for those women who come behind to know that there is an expectative, that you have this strawberry in your dessert or a carrot at the end of the race,” she added.
“[That] you know that you can have a possibility to get what I have and to grow. For me, rugby is each day something new.
“Each day [I have] a new knowledge of something, a new experience. If not, you die. If I don't get something new every day and something that moves me or challenges me or makes me want to get there, it's like... I don't move anymore.
“So, this is like a big opportunity for every girl [in South America] … Here in the region, most women playing rugby have low resources, they don't come from the rugby elite.
“They have very low resources, so anything that you can give them that gives them a little bit of like a gift, yes. But a gift that gives them knowledge.”
Although she feels privileged to have grown up in a rugby family, Pichot was not afforded the opportunity to play the game – other than touch with her brothers – as a child.
She did not realise that women played rugby anywhere until she went to watch Agustín play for Richmond in England in the late-1990s.
“My dad said, ‘Look, Barbie, there are women playing rugby’,” she recalled. “I couldn’t believe it!”
Pichot is now determined to make sure that more young women and girls have access to the playing opportunities she did not, as she attempts to “invert the pyramid” of female playing numbers in South America.
“In five years, I would love to see more girls playing at the grassroots level. I would like to see more and more six to 14-year-olds playing,” she said.
“What I need is the clubs to start growing their grassroots. It's the only thing that I expect.”