In June of 2023, WRCRA launched the first survey of college coaches to better understand the experiences of college coaches both as individuals and as a group. We hope this annual survey can lead to action plans that improve the experiences of coaches and grow the collegiate game.
The Women’s Rugby Coaches and Referees Association (WRCRA) Survey of College Coaches revealed what many of us have suspected, that while the rise of the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association (NIRA) and varsity rugby has allowed college coaches a professional pathway, the vast majority of non-NIRA/varsity coaches continue to work for low wages and report feeling “unsupported and isolated.”
One hundred and eleven coaches responded of that number twenty-two were NIRA coaches and eighty-nine were club (non-varsity) coaches.
NCR (National Collegiate Rugby)
CRAA (Collegiate Rugby Association of America)
NIRA (National Intercollegiate Rugby Association/NCAA initiative)
A few important takeaways from the survey include:
23 coaches Identified as full-time employees of a university. 22 were employed by NIRA/Varsity programs.
Salary rage: $20,000-$120,000 annually (average $60,500)
45% of coaches describe themselves as “partially paid or unpaid.”
One coach described: I pay for so many things out of my own pocket. I lose money every year. It’s frustrating, lack of secure funding makes it difficult to plan year-to-year.
Access to Services and University Support Access to strength and conditioning facilities, University fields, athletic trainers for practices and games, school athlete medical coverage if injured during rugby, and permission to use the school's athletics logo.
22 NIRA/Varsity programs and one club program coach answered ‘yes’ to all the above.
50% answered that they do not have access to strength and conditioning facilities?
35% answered that they do not have access to athletic trainers?
50% answered that they do not have access to secure, consistent funding?
As one NIRA coach described: University support is excellent, budgets include: salary and stipends for staff, operations budget, a separate budget for post season and championships, scholarship budget. This is one of biggest contributors to coach retention
As another coach described: [University Support is] Increasingly minimal. We have seen our access to resources dwindle over the year. As a club we are no longer able to access the athletic trainers, concussion baseline testing, or use of the school's gym and weight room as a team.
83 unpaid coaches described university support as: Minimal, barely there, non-existent, awful, not great, moderate, horrible, better than nothing, inconsistent, basic, they don’t care much.
Overall, club coaches describe a troubling disconnect between the university’s expectations for club management and the realities they face running competitive, collegiate rugby programs.
The most common frustration club coaches expressed were:
Non-responsive university administration
University too reliant on a student-run financial/governance model
As described: [In regard to student government] You have to follow SO many rules in exchange for nearly no support.
In many cases, coaches lack access to university administrators and are barred by university policies from supporting their athletes. While universities see club sport policies as supporting a ‘student leadership model’, coaches experience programs devoid of even the most basic support of their role as coaches of young athletes in a contact support. Many coaches described the total silence from university administrators as demoralizing.
As described: I work for the team, not for the school, so I have no way of helping the student athletes advocate for themselves, access support from the school, no way of knowing how the students are doing as students and if they’ll be back the following season or not because of that. I feel like a very disassociated middleman who is constantly running in circles and never able to help the program advance in any meaningful or sustainable way.
Coaching rugby can be both a deeply satisfying experience and a deeply frustrating and isolating experience. It’s little wonder women’s rugby struggles to retain qualified coaches. Positive change will be difficult to achieve without a united effort by coaches and governing bodies.
An important first step is to expand the annual college coaches survey to better understand the landscape of women’s college rugby in the US, and to work with local, regional, and national governing bodies to create small annual goals we can work on together to support college coaches.
This fall WRCRA will work with college coaches and administrators to create a series of facilitated webinars on improving working conditions for college coaches. These conversations will culminate at the January 2024 WRCRA Conference.
For full survey results, please click here. Please note, full survey results are available to current WRCRA members only.