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USWRF-WRCRA Horizons Initiative

USWRF Horizons Initiative: A Vision for the Future of Women’s Rugby


“Our goal in 5 years is to get 75 women through the introduction coaching course, 50 through the refereeing courses and 30 coaches through to Level 2. We’re also collaborating with USA Rugby to help ready and identify coaching candidates for Level 3. As a new extension to our pipeline program, we’ve started development on an administrator track. Look for more on that starting at our 2024 WRCRA conference.” (Danita Knox, USWRF Chair)


The Horizons Initiative was developed in 2021 to strategically increase the numbers of women coaches and referees in the U.S. In addition to providing funding for USAR and WR certification courses, we leverage our WRCRA network to provide educational and immersive experiences for our members. The program builds support systems throughout the women’s rugby community for participants. In the 2 years since we launched the Horizons Initiative we have funded certifications for approximately 30 coaches and 31 referees from introductory courses to the L3 coaches and L2 referees levels.

"Covid put a crimp into the roll out but now that USAR courses are back up and running we’re feeling we can hit or surpass our original goals. We’re also excited that most coaching and referee certification courses we’ve sponsored have been run by women educators. The US rugby community is blessed with some exceptional women educators. The idea for the Horizons Initiative came from discussions with Katie Wurst, Mary Swanstrom, Ros Anderson, and Amanda Cox. Nancy Fitz created the online introductory coaching course and Lee Bryant created the referee course. Lee Bryant also organized and ran one of the largest Horizon referee certification courses for USWRF in the fall of 2022. We are also grateful to Jamie McGregor at USAR for his support." (Kerri Heffernan, WRCRA Chair)


To begin the application, please visit the Horizons page on the USWRF website and complete the screening application. All WRCRA members are eligible for Horizon funding support, however applicants must be a WRCRA member for a minimum of 3 months to access funding. If membership fees are an obstacle, WRCRA provides need-based membership scholarships. To apply for a needs-based membership please complete the grant application and submit to grants@uswrf.org.


Upon completing the L1 coaching course, we are asking participants to complete their WRCRA Coaches Bank profile. This increases our ability to build networks of support for participants. In the past two years we have worked with WRCRA members to provide Horizons participants with opportunities to coach and referee at summer camps, to shadow coaches, practice their referee skills at weekly team practices, and to participate in Zoom conversations with experienced coaches and referees. Our intention is that the Horizons program becomes a loop - participants gain experience and professional certifications and in subsequent years they teach courses and mentor new Horizons participants.

WRCRA Members - learn more here.




Past Participant Profiles


Learn more about some of our Horizons Project participants!


Brittany Marie Dykes, 26, Boston, Massachusetts


Occupation: Customer Success Manager, Pear Deck Started Playing Rugby: Spring 2013 Teams: University of Southern California, Tulane, Lagniappe, Beantown (currently) Positions: Scrumhalf and wing



Favorite coach?

Jessica Mallindine, Tulane Women's Rugby Football Coach. Jess is an amazing coach! I've always enjoyed her approach to coaching us. I felt that she really understood everyone's strengths and weaknesses and developed drills to help us in those areas. Personally for me, I felt that she really helped me hone my skills as a scrumhalf offensively and defensively. Jess understood that I was quite the firecracker on the field and found ways to help me control that a little better. To this day, I often reflect on what I learned from her.


Favorite player?

I don't know if I have a favorite player. I feel like every player brings something to the pitch and to the team that is valuable. I appreciate everyone that comes out on the field whether for a match or for practice and they give 110%/the best that they might be able to give that day.


Why do you want to coach?

Rugby has had such a positive impact in my life. It's definitely a sport I hold near and dear to my heart. I want to continue to spread that love and joy for rugby through coaching! It has always been a dream of mine to really step up and help with Youth Rugby and through these courses, I can better equip myself to be a strong, positive coach for my players.


What are the qualities of a good coach?

The ability to simplify drills and skills to be easily digestible by all players at various skill levels, patience, empathy, and drive! What goals do you have for your coaching career? At a bare minimum, I want to complete the L200 coaching course before the end of 2021.


What type of support do you need to reach those goals?

Do you think your classmates in the level 100 course will be a support system? Truly, I just need someone to hold me accountable. I know that I can count on OBD to continue to push me to get things done!


Why did you join this first WRCRA coaching course?

Olivia Benson Daniels (OBD) nominated me! I was truly shocked, because though this is a dream of mine, I didn't feel 100% confident in myself that I was ready for that next step. OBD and I talked and her confidence in my ability made me feel comfortable and I was PUMPED for the opportunity. It's that first step I needed to take and I don't know if I would've taken it, if it wasn't for a nice push from OBD.


What did you think of the Level 100 course?

It was awesome! I enjoyed learning and getting the chance to apply the skills. I felt that the instructors had a nice pace and cadence for the course. They also just did a great job at creating a comfortable space and encouraged us to dig deeper in our thinking.


Jessika Marshall, 27, San Diego, California


Occupation: Girls Rugby Program Manager, San Diego Started Playing Rugby: High School Teams: South Burlington Rebels and Mira Costa College Positions: Hooker


Favorite coach?

My favorite Coach was Keli Ross-Ma’u. He was my coach at Mira Costa and encouraged me to take on leadership roles in the Rugby community.


Favorite player?

One of my favorite players is Kendra Cocksedge. She has spoken a lot publicly about how she dreamed of playing for the All Blacks when she was little – not knowing that she couldn’t play for them because she was a girl. She started her career at 19 with Black Ferns and simultaneously works to serve as the female rugby role model she wished for by expanding opportunities in youth programs for girls.


Why do you want to coach?

Coaching is an empowering experience, it’s so amazing to watch young girls realize their strength both on and off the field. Rugby provides a worldwide community of powerful women who blow through barriers to achieve their goals.


What are the qualities of a good coach?

I think some of the best qualities you can have as a coach is passion and dedication. You should always lead by example. If you want your girls to show up 100% you should too.


What goals do you have for your coaching career?

In my role at Girls Rugby, I would love to make Rugby accessible for girls of all ages. Although interest for the sport continues to grow in our area we are still lacking the opportunity for girls to continue through every level, many times aging out of one league without the chance to play locally at another. We can do better to provide access to all the opportunities rugby has to offer locally and globally at every level of the game.


What type of support do you need to reach those goals?

Do you think your classmates in the level 100 course will be a support system? Absolutely, having strong women to look up to is a huge motivation for young players. Coaches and players like my classmates in the level 100 course, who embody characteristics like leadership, assertiveness, and ambition, is exactly what Girls Rugby is all about.


Why did you join this first WRCRA coaching course?

I was nominated by Jenn Heinrich, CEO & Co-Founder of Girls Rugby Inc. This opportunity appealed to me because it was a chance to learn from the best. Taking this course puts me in a better position to provide the best support to our San Diego Coaching team and help them develop their skills and overcome obstacles they may encounter throughout the season.


What did you think of the Level 100 course?

It was a wonderful return to the fundamentals of coaching and leadership; as well as a great reminder that no matter how complex the topic is, it can always be broken down into digestible parts to meet the player where they are.


Neariah Persinger (NeNe), 24, Long Beach, CA (originally Oklahoma)


Occupation: Athlete first but also Massage Therapist and Babysitter Started Playing Rugby: Freshman year of high school. Going on my 10th year. Teams: Tulsa, Lindenwood, ARPTC, Atlantis, Tiger, CCIG, Life West, 7s and 15s USA National side Positions: 11,14, and 15



Favorite coach?

That's a hard question but probably my high school coach from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. She never let me use an excuse as to why I couldn't get something done. I was held to a higher standard in my early years and I think that continues to drive me today.


Favorite player?

I actually don't have a favorite player.


Why do you want to referee?

I want to be able to give back after my playing career because so many people helped me along the way.


What are the qualities of a good referee?

Cool headed, in fit condition, open to admitting if they are wrong, and confidence.


What goals do you have for your referee career?

No goals at the moment other than to referee at the high school level. I’d like to be a referee who can teach while keeping the game flowing.


Who nominated you and why was the opportunity appealing to you?

Jules McCoy, I like to be a student of the game and take any course no matter the level because I always end up learning something new What did you think of the Level 100 course? Very well taught! For sure it is good for someone who is just starting out.



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