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Coach of the Month: Kelly Griffin

Kelly Griffin has had a stellar rugby career, including making the first Olympic women’s 7’s team in 2016 and coaching the Loonies to the first PR7’s Championship (2021).

We love having Kelly as a coach in PR7s. She is meticulous, knowledgeable, and passionate - a true winner!

~Mike Tolkin, General Manager, PR7’s Rugby

Where do you live?

Santa Barbara, CA


Senior Claims Data Analyst, Rugby Coach, Mom

Tell us a bit about your playing days:

I started playing rugby at UCLA and then played for the Berkeley All Blues. Then I had the honor of being a full-time athlete with the USA 7s team in Chula Vista including playing in the 2016 Olympics.

How did you get into coaching?

While in residency we had opportunities to work with youth athletes and I always enjoyed sharing my passion for rugby with them. Once I retired from playing, I wanted to stay involved in rugby and help grow the game in the United States. I chose coaching as an enjoyable way to do that.

Team(s) you coach and why it’s great to coach them:

Currently, my main coaching is with the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) Women’s Rugby Team. Rugby at UCSB is a club sport so it is really great to bring in a bunch of athletes who have no idea what rugby is and teach them why rugby is the best sport. Those players have so much enthusiasm and improve quickly. I also am returning this summer to coach the Loonies PR7s women’s team. It is great to facilitate high caliber athletes coming together to perform as a team in a short time period. Lastly, I have had the opportunity to assist with some women’s pathways camps. My favorite parts of coaching at those events are learning from the other coaches and being able to challenge young athletes to look at rugby from a different perspective than they get from their home clubs.

What has coaching in PR7's been like for you?

It was very exciting last fall to be a part of the first professional domestic league for 7s. Last fall we only had 5 days to prepare for the tournament. Many of the athletes had never met each other and I also had not worked with the other Loonies coach Robin MacDowell before. Fortunately Robin and I complement each other’s coaching styles really well. The week was really about getting the athletes who were coming from different environments and didn’t know each other to work together and play for each other. I am proud of the performance the Loonies put on the field and look forward to building on that foundation for this upcoming summer.

What do you love about coaching?

There is a lot to love about coaching - most of the reasons are pretty cheesy. I love seeing athletes have those light bulb moments where all the sudden they read and execute and it looks like instinct but really I know it was hard work that got them there. It is even better when the whole team is clicking together in the zone.

What’s most challenging for you as a coach?

Just like when I was playing rugby, there is always something to improve on as a coach. Right now a challenge I have with the UCSB team is figuring out what to prioritize in training throughout the season. There is only so much rugby to be learned in the couple months before our college season starts and I struggle finding the balance of what to teach first and how much to try to master it before having to move on to something else. I realized we didn’t fully understand the difference between a free kick and a penalty kick until mid-way through the season. Next year, I’ll make sure to include more of those scenarios in practice during pre-season.

Individuals who’ve had a big impact on your coaching career:

Since starting coaching, Martha Daines has really pushed me to understand the why behind activities at trainings and given me opportunities to grow as a coach. When I was a player, I was lucky to be coached by a lot of great coaches that have influenced the way I approach coaching including Kathy Flores and Ric Suggitt. There are so many of my former teammates that are now coaches and it is awesome to be able to have their support and build rugby together.

Tell us about your 'non-rugby' life? What's something people would be surprised to know about you?

I know a lot of random facts about dinosaurs and can make a pretty awesome Thomas the Train Island of Sodor train track (thanks to lots of practice with my 7 and 4 year old kids).

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