We asked Susan Michaels, Rugby Washington’s new Executive Director a few questions
about her love for the sport and vision for the organization
My background in rugby is fairly new. Only 4 years as an uber-parent volunteer at my son’s team in Seattle. When he left for college, I knew I wanted to stay in rugby but needed to figure out how. I attended the September AGM and the rest is history. My role as Executive Director is also a new title but my experience as a small business owner, long-time career in operations management, a mom, and over-achieving volunteer in their school Parent Associations makes me qualified to do most anything. I like the sportsmanship and character building I’ve witnessed for these young players.
What is your vision for the future of RugbyWA?
I want RugbyWA to be the model for everything SRO rugby. In our administration, website, coach development, player development, competition level and hospitality as a touring team and as a host team. I want the entire USA Rugby community to want to come to Washington to play or want to invite a Washington-based team to play. I want every kid who hasn’t tried rugby to give it a chance. Every kid who hasn’t made a team at school or who gets to wear a uniform but warms the bench, should come out for rugby. I want a RugbyWA app that will tell a person on any day, anywhere there is a rugby game in the state of Washington. I do not think this is too much to ask!
Do you have a goal for the number of new players or teams you want in the state over the next 5, 10, 25 years?
Only one player. Everyone. I want them all. Every boy or girl who wants to play a sport, there is a position for them in rugby. If every current player signed one friend to their team, and next year it happened again, and then another year. We’d have some kind of crazy number of players. I don’t even know how to figure that out but it’s a really big number. Then we can really get started reaching for a goal.
How are you working with schools, community centers, or other partners to spread the game of rugby in the state?
Recently our marketing has been word-of-mouth. We’ve had a very low budget, more wishful than actual. We have hired a part-time youth development officer we share with Serevi Rugby to promote the camps and to start a Fall Youth league. It’s a very grassroots sort of approach but as we get better organized and our network gets bigger, we can do more and more outreach. With Serevi Rugby, our shared guy goes into the schools and runs PE classes and talks at length with the teachers and AD’s about starting an inner-school team or a small league to play against other schools in the district; always trying to put something together. We could use 10 more youth development officers on the I-5 corridor and 10 more in Eastern Washington to work with interested parents and coaches for all the intensity in rugby right now.
What is the role of organizations like Serevi Rugby in growth of the game in WA?
Here is my unsolicited, unpaid advertisement for Serevi Rugby especially in the Northwest. Having them in Washington but especially in Seattle is like a gift. It’s all this free marketing for the game of rugby of which RugbyWA is the direct beneficiary. They run hundreds of camps in the state with a fantastic set of resources in personal, coaches, email addresses and t-shirts. They get these kids in an organized camp situation and get the kids all fired up to play. Some of the kids then find a local team, but so many do not because there isn’t a club in every school district. Serevi is creating this explosion that we at RugbyWA and our clubs need to swoop in and collect up those new recruits. The good news is we need more coaches; the bad news is we need more coaches. More, more, more! And Serevi is no competition for RugbyWA. They do camps and no teams. We do teams and no camps. It’s really a great situation. We have so many opportunities for collaboration of our skills and energy, all for the good of the game.
What is your best memory playing, coaching, or watching the game of rugby?
The best memory was four years of watching our son play. During his junior year, which was hard enough at school, his team would practice twice a week and get beat on the weekends. The entire season was this program. The season was doomed. They didn’t win one game all season. The following year, all the boys returned, older, wiser and game tested. They won their first game, then the second. Then they beat a team they had never beaten in 11 years. And so the season went. Suddenly practice was fun and with a purpose. And then the victory of the state championship! It was a fantastic season even for the families. The second memory was the privilege of seeing the All Blacks in Chicago. Of course the game was a runaway. But to be a part of 60 thousand screaming rugby fans was pretty exciting!