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PAST conference speakers

2024 Conference Speakers

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KJ Abel Ruch

Governance Chair, USAR Senior Club Council Executive Committee; Treasurer, Mid America Rugby Union; Head Coach, U23 Central South All-Stars; Head Coach, Mid America All-Stars; Manager USWNT U20 Team; Head Coach, Kansas Women’s Rugby Club, University of Kansas Women; World Rugby Educator and Trainer; USA Rugby Training and Education, Central Region Administrator; Coach, Kansas City Jazz; Mid-America President; Member, USA Rugby Congress; USA 15s Player Pool.

Olivia Benzan-Daniel

Women’s Director of Operations, CRAA; Head Coach, Women’s Independents U23 program (Free Jacks Academy); Head Coach, Brandeis University Women’s Rugby and St. Mary’s High School Girls Team; President and player, Beantown WPL; Assistant Coach, Free Jacks Academy; player, Beantown WPL team; USA Rugby Team Manager, World Rugby Coach Educator. 

Jamie Burke

Member, USA Rugby International Athlete Council and USA Rugby Board of Directors; Assistant Coach, Colorado Gray Wolves (formerly Glendale Merlins); Assistant Coach, USA Rugby WNT 15’s; Former Head Coach, Rugby Colorado Girls High School All-State Team; USA Rugby Coach Educator; Captain, 2010 World Cup Team, Member of 2006, 2010, 2014 World Cup Team; Named to IRB World Cup Dream Team, Team of the Year and Team of the Decade by Rugby Magazine; ScrumQueens All Star World Cup Team (2010 and 2011); Named as the Best Women's tighthead prop of all time; First USA player to earn 50 caps (51 total).

Nancy Campbell

President, True South GU; Women’s Director, USA Rugby South; Match Commissioner with USAR; First Women Inducted into Memphis Rugby Hall of Fame; Founder, Memphis Women’s Rugby.

Rebecca Carlson

Head Coach, Quinnipiac University Women’s Rugby, (Becky led the transition from a new varsity program into a three-time national champion). She has been a key advocate for women’s NCAA rugby and equality in athletics for over a decade and is one of the founders of NIRA. She is the recipient of the 2015 Judy Sweet Award from the NCAA Coaches Academy. She has written extensively on issues in coaching and team culture and is a fearless advocate for coaches at all levels.

Amanda Cox

WPL Referee Manager; USAR Referee Coach; World Rugby Referee Educator; World Rugby Referee Manager Pac 4 Series (2023); Founding member of Raleigh Venom (4-time National Champions); mother of 3 daughters.

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Martha Daines

Manager, USA Rugby’s Women’s High-Performance Pathway; USA Rugby/World Rugby Coach Trainer; Head Coach, Metropolis Valkyries; Former coaching roles include: USWNT; USA U23s/USA ‘A’/Collegiate All-Americans; USA U18s; Midwest Select Side, University of Minnesota and Macalester College; Recipient of USWRF Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mel Denham

Head Coach, Harvard University; Assistant Coach, USA U23; Former Head Coach, Central Washington and American International College; Assistant Coach, Beantown WPL ; Coach, Girl’s High School All-Americans, and US Women’s U20s (Women’s Junior All Americans); Assistant Coach, Women’s Collegiate All-Americans; Member, 2010 World Cup team and the 2014 World Cup Training Squad team (earned 22 caps for the USWNT).

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Margy Dessypris Thomas

Former player with James River Rugby WRFC (for 12 years); President of the Referee Society of Virginia and Chair of the USA Rugby Referee and Laws Committee’s Governance Workgroup: Women’s Competitions Chair and the Referee Representative for the Capital Geographic Union. Over the past 20 years, she has contributed to the local and national competitions oversight for Senior Club Rugby. In 2022, she received the Old Glory DC ‘With Her’ Award. Margy is honored to be a Pioneer member of WRCRA. 

Jessica Hammond-Graf

Assistant Professor, Sports Management, Vermont State University; Former Deputy Athletic Director, University of Maryland, Baltimore; Board Member, Women’s Premier League; Member, USWNT 7’s, Co-Founder, Ten Eyck Brewing Company.

Kirby Gordon

President, Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union; Division 3 Women's Competition Coordinator for the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union; Former Disciplinary Chair, Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union; Referee, Eastern Penn Rugby Referee Society; Referee, RugbyPA; Professional Match Official; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for Philadelphia Rugby Club; Player, Philadelphia Rugby Club and Blackyardigans Rugby Club.

Mattison Grey

Business, Leadership, Executive and High-Performance Coach; Performance Psychology and Mental Skills Consultant; Certified Positive Psychology Coach®; The Emotional Culture Deck - ECD Certified Pro Consultant; Director of Mental Performance American Rugby Pro Training Center (2015-2021); Mental Skills Coach Texas Rugby Union All-Stars (2022, 2023) Co-Author, The Motivation Myth.

Kelly Griffin

Head Coach, Golden State Retrievers PR7’s, Former Head Coach, Loonies PR7’s; Head Coach, University of California, Santa Barbara Women’s Rugby; Member, Berkeley All Blues (2008-2011), MVP 7’s National Championship (2011); USWNT 7’s (Pan Am Games Silver Medal 2015, World Cup Bronze Medal 2013); Captain, 2016 US Women’s Olympic Team.

Evan Hoese

Coach, Berkeley All Blues D2 side and Assistant Coach Cal Berkeley; Member of Leadership Group of California Grizzlies U23 team; Vice President for All Blues Rugby, Vice President for the Northern California Rugby Football Union (NCRFU), Member of NCRFU Executive Committee; Member, Host Committee for the 2018 World Cup 7’s in San Francisco; Finalist for the 2022 WPL Heart of a Champion Award; Player, Berkeley All Blues, Rocky Mountain Experts PR7’s; former USWNT player. 

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Katie Hunzinger

Assistant Professor, Thomas Jefferson University; USA Rugby, Strength and Conditioning & Referee Educator, Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Referees Society (EPRRS); USAR Club Training and Development Committee; Recipient, 2020 USWRF ‘15 Under 30’ Award.

Samantha Lovett

Rugby content creator. Worked with World Rugby, Tiktok Six Nations, Guinness Six Nations, HSBC SEVENS series, AEG Rugby, PR7s, Ball Carrier and WXV; Vice President of Oklahoma City Crusaders; Member, Oklahoma City Mountain Boomers and Gypsy Rugby Club

Amelia Luciano

Match Official, Major League Rugby; Referee, inaugural WXV competition; President, Ivy Ruby Conference; President, New England Rugby Referees Society; Head Coach, Yale University Women’s Rugby, Head Coach, Cornell University Women’s Rugby; Assistant Coach, American International College.

Sherri Magnuson

USA Rugby Referee Coach; World Rugby Educator and Trainer; Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Referees Society Allocations Secretary for the West; Founder Harrisburg Women’s Rugby; Head Coach Harrisburg High School Boys Rugby, Assistant Coach Shippensburg Women’s Rugby and Cumberland Valley High Sschool Girls Rugby.

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Amy Marks

EVP of Global Strategy for Symetri, a global provider of digital BIM, product design and lifecycle technology solutions to the built environment ecosystem. Known throughout the world as the Queen of Prefab she played prop at the University of Florida, Northshore WRFC, and Morris Rugby. Her daughter Mackenzie props for Morris HS Girls RFC in New Jersey. Amy is the Chair, Corporate Partnerships for the USWRF.

Bhuttu Mathews

Chair and Trustee, International Gay Rugby (IGR); Coach, St Michael’s College Men's Rugby; Assistant Coach, DePaul University Men’s Rugby; USAR Referee; aspiring psychologist in private practice.

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Alex McCulloch

Faculty-Advisor and Coach, Girls’ Club Rugby, Trimble Technical High School (Fort Worth, TX); Currently spearheading Title IX complaint on behalf of girls in the Fort Worth Independent School District; Executive Director, Texas Interscholastic Rugby Association; President and Head Coach, Panther City Rugby (Fort Worth, Texas); Past-Chair for the Youth Competitions Committee, Rugby Texas; Past-President, Fort Worth Rugby Club; Licensed Athletic Trainer; Former-Professional Ballet Dancer.

Jamie McGregor

Director of Training and Education at USA Rugby, formerly Match Official Manager at Rugby Australia; World Rugby Master Trainer.

Stacy Paetz

Television Host, sideline reporter, and executive producer; Studio Host for MLR pregame and halftime shows on CBS Sports, Host of MLR All Access on Fox Sports.

Jayme Pendergast

Athletic Director, Life University; Assistant Director of Academic Support for Athletics, Elon University; Member, National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), NAIA Athletic Directors Association, and Women Leaders in College Sports; Member, NAIA National Administrative Council (NAC), NAC liaison for women’s wrestling, and ARC chair for NAIA women’s volleyball; Member, Board of Directors for National Collegiate Rugby.

Angela Smarto

Director of Women’s Rugby, National Collegiate Rugby; Head Coach, Robert Morris University Women’s Rugby; Recipient 2023 USWRF Women's Committee Award; College Commissioner, Secretary, Select Side Program Founder, Allegheny Rugby Union; President and 2x DII National Champion, Pittsburgh Rugby Club (now Pittsburgh Forge Rugby); Lifetime Member and 3x DI National Champion, Penn State Rugby

Hannah Stolba

Head Coach, Berkeley All Blues WPL Rugby; Head Coach, Pacific Coast U23s; Skills Coach, Otago Rugby Club, NZ; Former Head Coach, Glendale Merlins D1 Rugby; Former Assistant Coach, Stanford Rugby; Former Assistant Coach, University of Colorado; Player, USWNT U23 Team, USWNT Senior Women 15s (2010 and 2014 World Cup); player, El Salvador, División de Honor, Spain; Otago, FPC, New Zealand; Glendale Merlins, Berkeley All Blues, Metropolis Valkyries, WPL.

Mary Swanstrom

Athletic Trainer, UC Davis Gymnastics and Tennis; World Rugby Educator and Trainer; USA Rugby Training and Education Southern Region Administrator; USA Rugby Senior Club Council Training and Education Committee and USA Youth and High School Training and Education committees; Athletic Trainer with the Houston Sabercats (MLR) Athletic Trainer, track and cross country, Athletico; Athletic Trainer with Airforce Fighter Pilots, focusing on spinal injury prevention; Coach, San Diego Armada and Chicago Dragons men’s IGR rugby team; Forwards Coach, University of Minnesota Duluth men’s rugby team, Head Coach, Kennedy High School Boys Rugby Club; Player, Chicago North Shore, San Diego Surfers. 

Lauren Trout

Head Coach, Texas Team, Women’s PR’7’s; Head Coach, Chicago North Shore 7’s, Assistant Coach, Chicago North Shore 15’s; Coach, Illinois Collegiate All-Stars; 2016 USA's Club Coach of the Year; Training Consultant, USA Rugby; Player, Chicago North Shore, Atlantis, Stars, ARPTC, USA Developmental 7’s, the USA 15s Player Pool, and the USARL Women's National Team.

Christine Varga

National Collegiate Rugby, Director of Growth and Development; Associate Director of Campus Recreation Programs at Baldwin Wallace University.

Brittany Vegso

Head Coach, Conestoga Girls High School Rugby; Coach, Louisiana Youth Rugby; Player, USA Rugby South, Phoenixville Whitehorse Women's Rugby, Louisiana Lagniappe, Penn State University; Engineering Project Manager, Artisanal Brewing Ventures

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Kitt Wagner-Ruiz

Head Coach, Beantown Women’s Rugby; Assistant Coach, Brown University Women’s Rugby; Assistant Coach, USWNT U20 Team; Player, USWNT 15’s Women's World Cup (2010 and 2014), USWNT 7’s; Former Commissioner, Women's Premier League; Former Head Coach, Women's Premier League Select Side; Former Head Coach, Atlanta Harlequins Women's Rugby; Former Head Coach, Glendale Women's Rugby. 

Wendy Young

Creator and Editor of Your Scrumhalf Connection website; Journalist at 2010, 2014, and 2021 RWC; Rugby Play-by-Play Commentator; WPL Referee Coach; USA Rugby Senior Club Competitions Committee; Administrator, Texas Geographic Union (GU); Former player, Austin Valkyries, Oklahoma Roses, West RFU, and USWNT Pool; Member of Texas Rugby Union Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Rugby Hall of Fame, and Texas Rugby Referee Association Lifetime Member.

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Josie Ziluca

Head Coach, Princeton University Women’s Rugby; Head Coach, PR7s Pittsburgh Steeltoes; Sport Performamce Coach; Coach, American Rugby Pro Training Center (ARPTC); Coach, USA Rugby Age grade pathways; Coach, MARFU U23 women; Coach, North American Lions; Player, Northern Virginia Women's Rugby Club (NOVA) Atavus All-Stars, Atlantis 7’s, San Diego Surfers, USWNT 7’s (2014); USA Touch World Cup Women's Open Team 2019, Mixed 30s team (2024); San Diego Galaxy Women's Touch Team; Founder, Women In Rugby nonprofit.

Sarah Zipp

A leading researcher and advocate on sport, gender and menstrual cycle health. Founder, the Power to Play Period project, which provides seminars, resources and consulting on menstrual cycle health in sport for coaches and sport organizations. Published numerous articles, book chapters and is currently writing a book on menstruation and sport. Program Director for Sport Management at Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland. 

2023 Conference Speakers

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Martha Daines is the Manager of USA Rugby Women’s High Performance Pathway and a USA Rugby/World Rugby Coach Trainer. Involved in player development for over 20 years for USA Rugby, Martha has coached at almost every level of the HP pathway in addition to coaching regional representative, club and college teams.

Calling on her years of experience, Martha will work with participants at this year's conference to demystify the process of player development at the high performance level and help participants develop individualized, strategic plans for teams and players.

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Liz Masen is the co-founder and CEO at Athlete Assessments, a sports performance company based in Australia, specializing in helping coaches and teams create and sustain winning results through a range of performance tools.

 

For over a decade she has also been a key faculty member of the NCAA Women Coaches and the Japanese Women Coaches Academies.

 

As part of Liz’s PhD research, she will work with conference participants to explore what coaches want in their playmakers, to build an analysis of coaches’ experiences, perceptions, and expectations.

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Liz Kirk is the Director of Women’s Rugby and Head Coach of the Seattle Rugby Club. She has been a technical coach with the US Women’s National Team, an Assistant Coach with the 2017 World Cup Squad, USWNT U23 team and Pacific Coast Grizzlies.

 

Liz earned 23 caps with the USWNT including 2 World Cup appearances (1998 and 2002). Liz will work with participants to develop coaching philosophies as well as strategic plans for teams and players.

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Becky Carlson enters her 12th year at the helm of the Quinnipiac Women's Rugby team in 2022-23, leading the transition from a new varsity program into a three-time national champion. Carlson has been a key advocate for women’s NCAA rugby and equality in athletics for over a decade.

An author on issues in coaching and team culture development, Carlson’s most notable piece, “An Open Letter to the Athlete We Must Stop Recruiting" is currently one of the highest viewed articles on the business and networking platform, LinkedIn.

Outside of equality within athletics, Carlson’s mission continues to be education in the area of supporting coaches and returning accountability and high standards to the responsibility of the student-athlete.

Ros Chou

Head Coach Brown University, PR7’s, Life University, Women's Premier League All-Star head coach and Southeast region coach for the U.S. Women's 15s National Team. 

Amanda Cox

USAR and World Rugby Referee Coach Educator

Chelsea Garber

Faculty, Duke Economics, a law student, Level 200 coach, player Raleigh Venom

Alex Goff

Founder, Goff Rugby Report 

Emily Hsieh

Women's Referee Development Manager, New Zealand Rugby, World Rugby and USA National Panel Referee

Katie Hunzinger

Post doctoral researcher, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, USA Rugby referee, World Rugby Educator for referees and strength and conditioning, USA Rugby Strength and Conditioning Educator

Lisa Jackson

Coach, US U 23, US South Regional, Rhino Rugby, ROOTS Rugby, NC State Men, Eagle Eye Scout and winner of 2022 WPL Heart of the Champion Award 

Mikayla Miller

Assistant Director of Competitive Sports, University of Minnesota, Head Coach, University of Minnesota Women's Rugby Club

Angela Smarto

National Collegiate Rugby Women’s Director and D1 Commissioner, Head Coach, Women's Rugby Robert Morris University

Mary Swanstrom

ATC, CAFS,  Athletic Trainer with Airforce Fighter Pilots, Coach educator for World Rugby, Athletic Trainer, Houston Sabercats

Becky Worley

Correspondent: ABC News /Good Morning America, Youth Rugby Coach, San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club

Katie Wurst

Assistant Athletic Director, Warren Wilson College, Former Head Coach Queens University of Charlotte

Wendy Young

Founder, Your Scrumhalf Connection, referee, referee coach, developing referee coach for the WPL and MLR, Administrator, Texas Rugby Union

Click into each speaker's picture to learn more about them.

2021 Conference Speakers

2020 Conference Speakers