Rugby in Idaho is growing, quickly. The sport as exploded and Meridian High School Head Coach David Heaton and Assistant Coach Vanessa Monrroy have their fingers on the growing pulse. Their perspectives are vastly different…Coach Heaton having never played, transitioning his passion for the sport into coaching and Coach Monrroy recently graduating from Meridian as a player and carrying her passion for the sport forward…but their goal the same. Rugby growth in Idaho and the US.
Both were kind enough to share their experiences and thoughts with Rugby Nation USA. Last week I profiled Coach Heaton, this week is my interview with Merridian Assistant Coach and current Boise State University Rugby player Vanessa Monrroy.
RN: Coach Monrroy, what’s your rugby background?
Vanessa Monrroy (VM): I started playing rugby back in 2014 when I was a sophomore in high school (RN: Meridian HS). I started off as a back but gradually made my way to the forwards and became a prop. I played 15s through the majority of my high school years and this past summer I decided to play 7s and joined Mambas Rugby here in Boise. I played with Nampa Rugby Club in high school which is bittersweet now because they’re going to be our rivals! It’ll be an interesting season because I’ll be coaching against some of my former coaches and teammates!
RN: How did your 7s experience go?
VM: I gained a lot of knowledge while playing 7s because it was such a different platform and I enjoyed every moment of it. We went to Salt Lake City where we took second at the North American Invitational 7s that featured multiple different youth programs. On top of that, we also took home the state championship trophy and it was bittersweet because it was the first and last championship trophy I won in high school because I had graduated in May.
RN: So you’ve decided to keep playing beyond HS?
VM: I always knew that I wanted to continue to play rugby, so when I decided to continue with my education at Boise State University, I was overjoyed that the women’s rugby club was being reestablished.
RN: What made you decide to be a coach?
VM: I love this sport and really wanted to help grow rugby at the high school level. I’ve played for multiple years and I really want to help within the rugby community. I want others to love this sport as much as I do and hopefully have it make an impact in their life as it has with me. I always wanted to see things from a coach’s perspective and this is a great opportunity for me to not only grow as a coach but also a player.
RN: What do you bring to the coaching staff?
VM: I’m still young enough that I’m able to relate more with the team. I’m that coach who gets involved with the drills rather than standing on the sidelines telling the players what to do. It also helps me work on my own skills which is a bonus!
RN: What are your club options in your area?
VM: When I was back in high school, girl rugby teams were hard to come across. I had to join a team in a different city because options weren’t that great back then. I’m so excited now that the sport has grown immensely here in Idaho especially for girl’s teams. Now girls can find a youth team in their backyard but for Women’s teams, there isn’t much in the area. We have the Boise Nemesis who is the only team in the area and they are well known around town. So playing with Boise State or with the Boise Nemesis is the only options I have as a young adult who is graduated from high school.
RN: If you could change anything about the current rugby landscape what would it be?
VM: Rugby is an amazing sport. It teaches character and self disciple. I would never change anything about it.
RN: Your age group will be pivotal to sharing the future of rugby in the US; how do you think we could reach kids sooner?
VM: We need to reach out to athletes at a younger age; especially here in the US. Up until recently, rugby wasn’t well known. It was around but people would still scratch their head when they would here of the sport. Growing up, I was surrounded by other sports such as soccer, basketball, and even football. I’m not saying they’re bad sports because I played basketball when I was younger and that helped me as I transitioned into playing at the high school level. Most athletes don’t get the chance to experience rugby growing up and it makes them hesitant to try it out later in their lives. I feel like implementing some simple rugby basics into P.E. classes at the younger age group and having the sport be recognized as a varsity sport and be fully supported by schools rather than it being a club.
RN: What’s your future in rugby?
VM: I hope to continue playing five, ten, maybe even fifteen years from now. It’s become such a huge part of my life and I always want to be involved. I hope down the road that I’ll be able to start my own rugby club and become a coach and mentor to those athletes. I know for a fact that I’ll be doing whatever I can to continue being an active member in the rugby community. This sport has done a lot for me so I want to be able to give back. I feel like its everyone’s dream to meet and even play with the USA Eagles and I hope that I’ll be able to be involved with them in some form.
RN: If you could spend a day with any rugby player, who would it be and why?
VM: If I could pick anyone it would be Portia Woodman. Have you seen her play? She’s everything and more the type of player that I want to be. New Zealand is widely known for rugby and she just makes that statement even more true. I believe that she started playing rugby later in her life and it makes me admire her even more because she’s so talented and you can clearly see that immense love that she has for the sport. I almost cried with her when New Zealand lost against Australia in Rio. I just have the upmost respect for her.
RN: What do you want people to know about you or rugby in Idaho?
VM: I just want people to know that rugby DOES exist in Idaho. We might be overlooked a lot but we are growing. We have so many talented athletes here and I’m excited to see more athletes playing at the next level.
RN: Thank you Coach for your time; I look forward to following your career as you climb through the playing and coaching ranks.
Mar 20: Atlanta Youth Rugby
Mar 27: Nampa Rugby Head Coach Chris Kovac