Kate Daley experienced the full gamut of human emotion when she discovered she had been granted a place on the Coaching Internship Programme for Rugby World Cup 2021.
Daley, who captained USA at RWC 2014, will participate in the tournament as a coach as World Rugby continues its drive to develop ‘inspirational leadership’ as part of the Women in Rugby 2017-25 strategic plan.
Her name was put forward by USA Rugby Director of Women’s High Performance, Emilie Bydwell, while the former number eight had already worked with Women’s Eagles head coach Rob Cain. But, that did not stop her pondering: “Are you sure you're picking the right person?”
“It is affirming and validating to have the support of Emilie Bydwell and Rob Cain, and knowing they believe I bring value to the high-performance world in the USA,” admitted Daley.
World Rugby has set an ambitious minimum target that 40 per cent of all coaching staff at Rugby World Cup 2025 will be women. In support of that aim, Daley was one of six female coaches whose places on the Coaching Internship Programme were confirmed on 18 September.
“I am very grateful to Emilie and Rob and USA Rugby for putting my name forward to World Rugby,” Daley added. “I hope I'll be a good candidate, someone that will push the game forward for women.
“It is an incredibly exciting opportunity. We owe so much to Katie [Sadleir, World Rugby General Manager for Women’s Rugby] for everything that she's been doing for women's rugby globally.”
Like several of her fellow internship recipients, Daley participated in the inaugural World Rugby Women’s High Performance Academy in May 2019, travelling to South Africa to learn and share ideas.
That experience gave the 34-year-old a support network of women in high-performance roles that she remains in contact with and able to bounce ideas off.
Exciting opportunity for the growth of the women's game: Former @USARugby player, head coach of @PennStateWRugby and assistant coach of USA Women's 15s team, Kate Daley, confirmed as one of the Rugby World Cup 2021 Coaching interns https://t.co/tsyRRCyk8u #wrugby— Women Eagles (@USAWomenEagles) September 18, 2020
“Without the Academy programme, we certainly would not have the global network we have now,” Daley said.
“All of the knowledge sharing, learning and connections that we have would never have occurred without that inaugural meeting in Stellenbosch. If the goal is to have 40 per cent of [coaches being] women at Rugby World Cup 2025 then without initiatives that push women into high performance roles that will not happen.
“Without World Rugby’s push for women in high performance roles I imagine we would not come close to the 40 per cent goal and the women present would be the sole person of their gender on staff.”
Opening doors of opportunity
Daley says she is keen to strengthen that support network through the Coaching Internship Programme, engaging with more coaches from around the globe.
The Pennsylvanian is also keen to experience life in a high-performance environment outside of the USA one day.
“I would like the opportunity to coach overseas somewhere and be able to bring back that knowledge to the US,” Daley said.
“In the US, we have the MLR [Major League Rugby], and I think it would be an amazing opportunity to be involved in their professional set-up in some capacity.
“Do I presently have the ambition to be a head coach of a national team? I'm not quite sure yet. At the moment I am becoming more comfortable in my role as an assistant coach. Hopefully through this internship, I will have the confidence, preparation and knowledge to compete for those high-performance roles.“
Thanks to the RWC 2021 Coaching Internship Programme there will be at least 12 female coaches in New Zealand when the tournament kicks off next September.
Daley is extremely grateful to the work being done by World Rugby and Sadleir, while she regards both Bydwell and Cain as mentors within USA Rugby.
Creating an inspiring environment
However, she is also conscious that being part of the USA coaching team at a Rugby World Cup will come with a degree of accountability.
“I’m extremely excited, [but] am sometimes overwhelmed at the responsibility of being on a staff for the national team,” Daley explained.
“It seems a bit surreal some days, and it is never far from my mind that I am not only representing the USA staff but all the incredibly competent and qualified aspiring female coaches in the US. I feel that even more as a coach, than when I was a player.”
That sense of responsibility has not dampened her expectations for the team. At Ireland 2017, the USA qualified for the semi-finals for the first time since RWC 1998 and Daley believes the Eagles can repeat that feat in New Zealand.
Results, however, are not the only yardstick that Daley will use to measure success in 2021. As a coach whose philosophy centres on “creating an atmosphere that allows players to meet their goals on and off the field”, she is keen to foster an environment that people want to be a part of.
“We want to perform on the field. We want all of our players to have an amazing experience. We want to build something special” Daley said.
“Hopefully we not only create a great experience for the current players but create something that inspires all future Eagles and all players to aspire to be a part of the national team pathway. That the sacrifices you make and everything you put into playing for your country (which is everything) is worth it.”
Photo: Travis Prior