First introduced to rugby at Northeast Missouri State University, Tracey Davies has been long involved with the game in multiple different roles, from Collegiate All-American to coach. Tracey spoke with USA Rugby Trust to share her rugby story and discuss how we can continue to grow and develop rugby in the United States.
USA Rugby Trust: When and where did you play rugby?
- 1994-1998 – Started playing rugby at Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman State University with Bullets Rugby
- 1997-2003 – Western Territorial All Star Team
- 1997 – Collegiate All American
- 1999 – Became a member of the Kansas City Jazz Rugby Club (played for the Jazz through 2003 and then intermittently until my last game in April 2015)
USART: When did you play with the Eagles?
- 1998 – USA Rugby National Under-23 Team – Undefeated Tour to England, December 1998
- 1999-2001, 2003 – USA Rugby National Developmental Team/Senior Side
USART: What is your favorite rugby memory?
TD: There are far too many memories to name for the 23 years since I first picked up a rugby ball. I will never forget what it was like to stand on foreign soil and listen to our National Anthem being played before a match; however, most of my favorite rugby memories come from watching the high school rugby players that I coach and now my sons with a rugby ball in hand and falling in love with the game. Introducing people to rugby and watching their confidence soar and watching them realize just what rugby can offer them is inspiring. It is why I have coached high school rugby for the last 18 years.
I also remember what it was like as a 155-pound freshman in college, trying to make my first tackle. It was my first or second practice and I hadn’t been taught to tackle at all but the coaches asked for anyone who wanted to hit and I quickly raised my hand. One of the experienced players, who was probably about 70 pounds bigger than me, ran at me and I tackled her but pulled her right on my chest, knocking the wind out of me. I learned two things in that moment: that I wished I had been taught to tackle properly and holy cow, I loved this game.
USART: Where are you now?
TD: I first became certified to coach in 1997 as a player coach of my college team, Truman State University Bullets. When I graduated in December 1998, I moved to Kansas City to play for the KC Jazz. I was approached by some girls at the high school where I was working as a Campus Supervisor about starting a high school girls team. From there, I continued to recruit like-minded coaches who bought into what we were trying to accomplish and we continued to build more rugby teams. I moved from Kansas City to Liberty, Missouri in 2009 and currently live in Liberty.
- 1999-2009 – Head Coach and Founder of the Park Hill High School Girls Rugby Football Club, now the Park Hill Lady Dragons Rugby Football Club
- 2008-2011 – Head Coach and Founder of the Kansas City Titans Rugby Football Club, now the Park Hill Titans Rugby Football Club
- 2009-Current – Head Coach and Founder of the Liberty Jays Rugby Football Club (also Liberty United RFC), recognized by the high school as a club
- 2011-2012 – Head Coach of the Kansas City Jazz Rugby Club
- 2012-Current – Head Coach of the Liberty United Girls Rugby Football Club, now Liberty Lady Jays Rugby Football Club, recognized by the high school as a club.
USART: What do you believe is the most important factor in growing the sport of rugby in the US?
TD: The most important factor in growing the game in the US is inspiring people to give back to the game and to get involved after playing. At the end of each season, I give my seniors a whistle. I encourage them to give back to the game, either as a referee or a coach. It is a small reminder to them as they graduate that the only way this game grows is for those who love it to give back.
I was criticized by some for hanging up my boots too soon, but I know it was the right thing to do for the growth of the game. My love of the game grows exponentially through the players my coaches and I introduce to the game. Coaching is not a sacrifice, it is not a burden, it is a gift. It is a gift to grow the traditions of rugby and share our passion for it. The camaraderie, the respect, the sportsmanship, the honor, the character building and dedication to family is what this game should be about and that is what we continue to build in our programs.
Regarding what USA Rugby can do, in my opinion, it is important that they realize that there are many geographical areas in various stages of development across this great country. Remembering that not all areas are at the same stages of development is important. Sometimes growing pains and change are necessary but I encourage USA Rugby to be more attentive to whether those policy changes are actually detrimental to the morale of the volunteers at that start up level. Remembering that a majority of coaches involved with rugby in the US are volunteers is crucial to understanding how to respect and help them grow the game in their individual areas.