Coaches of the Morris U12-U14 Girls Teams
Where do you currently live?
Marjorie: Jersey City, NJ
Caitlin: Mt Arlington, NJ
Caitlin: QA specialist
Teams you coach and why it's great to coach them:
Marjorie: I coach the Morris Rugby U14 Girls Team. It's just awesome to introduce the sport to girls. My favorite is when I see a girl who’s tried different sports and felt like they never fit in... until they come to our practice and have a run and interact with teammates. It's like they found their people.
Caitlin: I coach for U-12/U-14 Girls Morris Rugby. I love working with children, but specifically this age group because I can't help but remember what kind of kid/athlete I was at their age! I remember my favorite coach, Chelsea! While I had many swim coaches, she was the first to instill in me that true sense of passion for a sport. I hope to inspire our athletes to pursue their passion.
Did you play rugby? Tell us a bit about your playing careers:
Marjorie: I've been playing for 20 years. Started at a college club in Caracas, Venezuela (CRUSB), then went on to play several years for the New Orleans Halfmoons. During graduate school, I played in Berlin, Germany (BSV) and in Sydney, Australia (Sydney Uni). I also had a stint as a Sevens player for Venezuela and represented my country at the games in Chile. I'm currently playing for Morris Senior Women's Team...not sure for how much longer, though!
Caitlin: I currently play for the Morris Senior Women's Team. I got my start in college playing for East Stroudsburg University.
How did you get into coaching?
Marjorie: Caitlin, who is my teammate on the women's side, was eager to start coaching the girls as there were mostly (excellent) dads coaching and she wanted to have some female representation in the coaching pool. I said I'd tag along to help-out on occasion, and now here I am, loving it and I don't see myself going anywhere!
Caitlin: I have been coaching all sorts of youth sports since I was 17 years old. I started as a swim instructor and coach, then coached a U12 soccer club, and finally landed at Morris. I started coaching the U12& U14 program last spring. I was showing up to the girls U18 practices seeing if I could help in any way, and was asked to work with a much smaller U14 girls’ squad (in size and numbers). I fell in love and have been here ever since.
How is it working together?
Marjorie: It's a bit weird how frequently we are on the same wavelength, like we are reading each other's minds. I also feel like we complement each other in terms of our coaching strengths. We communicate well and discuss things with each other before making decisions. The best part is we have a lot of fun and laugh a lot.
Caitlin: When I began working with this young squad, I had no doubt I would need some help. My first thought was Marjorie. Her passion for the sport matches mine. We seem to be on the same train going to the same station, even sometimes in the same exact seat if that makes any sense. Together the two of us make a great coaching pair and great teammates.
What has been most challenging about this season? Most rewarding?
Marjorie: Because of the age group, and the low visibility of women’s rugby in general, there are no local teams to play against. So, we must do a fair amount of traveling. We are lucky to have a great U18 program that travels to many tournaments, so we tag along and arrange for other clubs to bring their own U14 sides. But yes, the biggest challenge is finding competition.
Caitlin: I feel like I should say COVID-19, but in some sense, it brought our team together. Realizing that your rugby teammates are also your family has really opened players’ minds to what rugby could mean to them now and in the future. The players are connecting on and off the pitch which is very rewarding and something I think of as a personal achievement. And our players are bringing more friends out play. Our squad was about 5 girls when we started and now, we have nearly 16 players. Enough to travel and wipe out our competition.
When you look out over the landscape for women's rugby, what are areas of advancement or concern for you?
Marjorie: I say it to everyone that will listen to me: VISIBILITY. I think because we are in a bubble of rugby, we think we see the sport around a lot, but the reality is that it's absent in the mainstream. The Olympics are a great opportunity to ramp up visibility. Showing rugby to communities that wouldn't otherwise see it is important.
Caitlin: Women's rugby is really growing, but we face many of the same issues as other women’s sports. Many coaches struggle with a lack of visibility and resources. Most women’s sports struggle to express the pure athleticism and passion women have for their sports. I am excited to see professional women athletes speaking up and serving as role models!
What individuals have had an impact on your coaching career?
Marjorie: The biggest impact thus far has been the Morris rugby dads – those guys who started the girl’s youth program and continue to be involved long after their daughters have aged out. Many of these dads kept the team going during the pandemic so that Caitlin and I could jump in and grow the squad. Being able to have their support has been helpful, but more importantly, they trusted and encouraged us to do our own thing and coach our own way without meddling.
Caitlin: Many individuals and coaches have shaped me as an athlete and a coach. I feel most drawn to the coaches and fathers who help with our U18 girls (high school) program. They have really shown me what it means to be a coach. Our U18 coaches all started as ‘caring fathers’ and they built a nationally ranked team. These coaches have created so many opportunities for their players to continue playing and have set a high bar for me as a coach. But I feel inspired and have no problem listening to their advice as it makes me a better coach.
What is your most sage coaching advice?
Marjorie and Caitlin: Keep it fun for the players!
Tell us a bit about your non-rugby selves?
Marjorie: My family, science, scuba diving, sports, Venezuelan folk music, languages, and messing with Caitlin are among my favorite things in life right now. The pandemic put a damper on travel, one of my favorite things, but I'm looking forward to an upcoming trip to Ireland - never been!
Caitlin: As much as rugby has become my family, I never miss an opportunity to be around my real family and my boyfriend. They have supported me as an athlete and a coach. I enjoy music (my first passion) and any opportunity to learn something new. I’ve started guitar lessons, I love to travel (it's even better getting to do it for rugby) - you can only learn so much about yourself when you stay inside your bubble.