If anyone knows the full power of what rugby can do, it is American coach Timaris Montano.
The 48-year-old from Gallup, New Mexico, is one of 26 winners who will travel to the UK this weekend as part of the Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme, which provides US coaches with a comprehensive introduction to the ins-and-outs of a top-tier English rugby.
Montano has been on something of a remarkable journey since she helped her son found a team – now Gallup Rugby Football Club, which offers a rugby experience for the nearby Navajo reservation – the best part of 15 years ago.
At the time, her only experience of the game was her husband’s time on the pitch; now she helps to organise a representative team for Native American rugby enthusiasts from across the country.
“My husband played rugby down in Phoenix, and we ended up moving back home to Gallup, New Mexico,” she explained. “When we got back home, my oldest son – who was just starting high school – wanted to play in a rugby team.
“My husband didn’t have time, so they both asked me. My intentions were to do it just until somebody else steps up; I thought I could do it for a season, half a season; I didn’t expect to do it as long as I’ve been doing it!
“It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, obstacles and empowering young gentlemen and females.
“Our very first game that we ever played, we had eight vehicles take players up and when we got there, we were nervous, I was nervous. I was thinking to myself ‘this is crazy, it’s insane’!
“And eventually we ended up playing and got beaten bad, something like 115-0 maybe, and my boys walked off the field like they had won the world championships, with so much pride and so much eagerness to play again. That was it; I knew we would have a team from that point on.”
Set to fly out to the UK at the end of the month, Montano will miss this year’s annual invitational match with the indigenous side, as she prepares for the Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme.
The coaches and players will experience what it’s like to coach professional rugby in the UK visiting Leicester, Northampton Saints and Wasps while taking part in a series of high-level rugby and knowledge transfer sessions.
During the week in England, coaches will also take part in a Level 300 coaching training course, co-delivered by Premiership Rugby and USA Rugby.
Coaches will be hosted from October 27 to November 3 and Montano cannot wait to further her rugby education, one that, in her time with the game, has already given so much to so many.
“I think it brings a sense of pride to these individuals about their culture or tribe they’re affiliated with,” she explained. “Now we have players from different tribes across the United States.
“So see them bring out their flags during games is emotional for me; to see and hear the traditional native songs before a game is so emotional, because I know those songs mean a lot to their people, so that’s why I have tried to continue this.
“Now we have boys that have graduated. We had a young player who was gay. We were always desperate for members and didn’t care about sexual preference, so we accepted him.
“When he went down to college, he was getting picked on because he was gay, so I called the rugby team at the college he was attending, asked the coach and a few of the players if they could keep an eye out, and they did, and he said after that that nobody bothered him.
“I never met these people and they helped a young man that was part of our team.”
Following quickly on Montano’s heels will be the next group of Premiership Rugby Scholarship winners, who will travel to England in the spring of 2020. Applications for the next year’s Scholarship visit will open early in January, 2020. To be in with a chance of winning, you will need to submit a video outlining how the experience will positively impact your coach delivery and you must have completed your USA Rugby Level 200 coaching qualification prior to the trip.
In addition to the Friends of the British Council and USA Rugby the following partners have been instrumental in the Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme: Austin Huns Rugby Club, Austin Valkyries Women’s Rugby Club, Carolina’s Geographic Rugby Union, Glendale Raptors, Rugby ATL, Rugby United New York, Rugby New Jersey, Saint Thomas Aquinas Rugby, Southern California Rugby Football Union and the United States Rugby Foundation.