Forget her celebrity surname -- rugby official Ada Milby carves own path

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Nov 23 2020 04:38 PM | Updated as of Nov 23 2020 06:12 PM

From aspiring Winter Games Olympian in the United States and being a sergeant in the US military, to a Philippine national rugby team player and coach, and serving as a top rugby executive at the Asian and world levels, Ada Milby has worn many hats and proven to be adept in all.

Drawing from her unique and extensive sports journey, Milby now hopes to serve Philippine sports in a larger way by running as an independent candidate for second vice president in the Friday, November 27 Philippine Olympic Committee polls.

“It’s been a process of learning and developing. My experience as a player and coach has given me some perspective of Philippine sports,” said the comely lady, who bagged a bronze medal in the 1995 US junior Olympic figure skating championships at the age of 12. 

“Perhaps even more valuable is my international experience from my being part of the sports governance at the world and Asian levels,” added the hardworking Philippine Rugby Football Union secretary general.


A post shared by Ada Milby (@adamilby)

Milby said she preferred running as an independent candidate “because I have no political agenda,” although she acknowledged that she has a formidable rival in Ormoc city mayor, former national athlete and movie icon Richard Gomez for the position of second vice president. 

The president of the fencing and modern pentathlon associations, Gomez is running on the ticket POC president and Tagaytay Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, who is running for reelection.

On the other hand, Milby has been adopted on the slate of Tolentino’s challenger, archery chief Atty. Jesus Clint Aranas.

“Goma (Gomez’s nickname) is a very worthy opponent, absolutely. I think that the difference for me is I have the experience with the Asian Federation and the International Federation,” she said. “I don’t hold a public office position that will divide my attention in all these other matters, although we recognize that this is just as important to him.”

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Cited by World Rugby magazine

Her articulate advocacy for gender equality in the predominantly male-dominated discipline of rugby and her administrative skills have earned a place in the boards of both Asia Rugby and World Rugby.

In recognition of these accomplishments, the London-based and 60-year-old World Rugby magazine in its August edition cited Milby as among “the 50 most influential people in rugby 2020.”

“She (Milby) has played rugby sevens and 15s and coached the national team in the Philippines,” World Rugby said, “(but) it is through her administrative roles, though, that she is able to make the biggest impact. She works on growing the game as part of Asia Rugby’s executive committee and chair of its general inclusion commission.”

“She became the first woman to sit on the World Rugby Council in 2017. Asia can be a huge growth market for rugby and Milby has a central role to play (in the region),” the magazine likewise noted.

The Asia Rugby board member is among those currently overseeing the organization’s “Unstoppable Asia” campaign, a take-off from World Rugby’s “Try and Stop Us” drive in 2019 in identifying athletes and officials actively promoting the sport globally.

“In my Asian federation we’ve really made big strides in governance and trying to promote gender inclusion and women in sport.” Milby said. “We have passed the mandatory number of females in our executive board and promoting more women in sports.”

Not only does she talk the talk but walks the walk as well, being a member of the national women’s rugby squad that won a breakthrough silver medal in the rugby sevens competition of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.


A post shared by Ada Milby (@adamilby)

Winter Games aspirations

For a while, however, her world revolved around figure skating and virtually nothing else when she was young. 

“We had this little pond our family owned in the province. It was just one of those things I wanted to go on the ice. My dad said no, but I did so anyway. It was my first sport and I loved it,” said Milby, who, together with younger brother and matinee idol Sam, were born in Troy, Ohio.

They are the children of Samuel Lloyd Milby and Elsie Lacia Milby from Tago town, Surigao del Sur,

“My dream was becoming a (Winter Games) Olympian. From the time I was 5 to the time I was 15 I had never been off the ice for more than two weeks ever in that whole time,” she recalled.

But puberty and dealing with the pressures of being a young and promising figure skater took their toll, she acknowledged.

“One of the challenges of young athletes is the pressure of being successful. There were also a lot of things going on as we entered puberty. My body was changing, things were changing as a teenager,” added Milby, who suddenly decided to hang up her skates and quit at 15.

“I was staying with my coach and we quarreled, I don’t even remember why now. I just told daddy that I wanted to come home.”

But she did not stay out of sports for long and tried other sports, among them athletics, softball and cross-country running and American football, where was bullied by boys she played with while she was about to graduate high school.

Bullied in American football, discovers rugby

“I was 16 when I was bullied by the boys on the high school football team when I was about to graduate,” she said, shrugging off the experience and started looking elsewhere to channel her sports drive. 

It was at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, where she found her current sports passion in the English sport of rugby. 

“I tried other different sports but none of them fit well with me. But when I went to Wright State University, I found rugby and fell in love with it ever since,” gushed Milby, who would go on to enlist in the US military after shifting schools and graduating from DeVry University.

She served as a US Army Staff Sergeant and in 2005 handled logistics for a battalion stationed in Iraq. 

“We were in a battalion of 500 soldiers with only 25 women. Being part of the military is you learn to navigate your space in a male-dominated environment,” reminisced Milby, who has tried to apply the lessons from her military stint to her current sport.

“Sports and the military have a lot of similarities, The dedication towards something you are working on. I was able to work with a diverse group of individuals. I handled logistics so worked behind the scenes,” she explained. “But just like in sports you must work together to cross the line.”

As Sam’s showbiz career started to flourish in the Philippines, Milby’s parents also tried to woo their good-looking daughter to settle down in Manila and try a similar path once she was out of the US Army, according to her.

Instead, what she discovered was a growing and thriving rugby community in the country under PRFU president Rick Santos, reuniting with her old sports flame. 

“I fell in love with rugby all over again. And that’s where my path has taken me.”

Her experience in both individual and team sports -the latter as both player, coach and executive - Milby said, would also help her in helping her fellow National Sports Associations and the POC. 

“My experience as a player and coach (of the national women’s rugby team gives me some perspective of Philippine sports,” she said, adding that she can also aim at getting the best practices from World and Asia Rugby and apply them to the local scene.

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Thoughts on PHISGOC issue

She expressed her concern over the delayed submission of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee’s report, including the audited financial statements, to the POC as required by the POC general assembly resolution of Sept. 30.

However, she stressed that was unable to make a proper and informed opinion on the issue until she knew the full details surrounding the report. 

“Yes, I am 100 percent for integrity and transparency but because I am not executive board it is very possible there is a lot of information that I have not come across and definitively say why the report has not been done right now who is at fault or whatever,” Milby said.

“But I am successful in my bid to become second vice president of the POC, perhaps I can advocate through the discussions of not having the report finished.”

While she enters every game - including the POC election - with a mindset of winning, Milby pointed out that whatever the outcome of the exercise, “we’re all running to serve Philippine sports.”

“We’re all here to help Philippine sports,” she said. “Whether I win or lose, I am here to serve Philippine sports because It is all about helping the athletes and the POC.”