Pennsylvania sports coach Rachel Grispon is aiming to spread rugby excellence around the state when she returns from the Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme this week.
Grispon has been playing rugby since her high school days and now coaches the sport at Easton’s Lafayette College, as well as helping to coordinate leagues for the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union.
The Easton resident will be visiting professional English clubs Saracens, Harlequins and London Irish, alongside 29 other American coaches as part of the Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme.
Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the US and Grispon was encouraged to take part in the multi-year initiative between USA Rugby and Premiership Rugby by a coach who took part 12 months ago.
“I first saw it on Facebook and then I spoke to a friend who I saw at the Premiership Rugby game in Chicago, Jennifer Jones, who’d done the programme before,” said Grispon, 33.
“I reached out and asked if this was something I’d be able to do and she said ‘absolutely’!
“I’m really looking forward to it but I’m a little anxious. I feel a little inferior because I creeped on everyone else going and I’m just from a tiny little school!
“I’m going to just take it all in, ask lots of questions because I don’t think any questions are stupid. I’m really going to make connections so that I get a broader view for all of my girls.
“I’m keeping an open mind to everything, I’m going to be taking it all in as a sponge!”
Rachel is part of a cohort of players and coaches travelling from the US to the UK for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn about coaching techniques, video analysis and team cultures from those who do it day in day out at Premiership Rugby clubs.
The initiative is run by Premiership Rugby in partnership with the Friends of the British Council and USA Rugby and aims to grow the sport in the US. Coaches will also learn about and engage with Premiership Rugby’s award-winning community programs that use rugby as a tool for social change, covering all methodologies used in these life changing initiatives. Coaches will gain insight into various ways Premiership Rugby clubs are engaging their players, fans and communities to instil the core values of rugby.
She added: “At Lafayette we’re a small private college of about 4,000 kids. It’s very grassroots and I do feel we could be at a higher level in terms of rugby coaching.
“Hopefully with my level of coaching it could get better and I can escalate and elevate myself, and then use that to drive within our union because we have a lack of coaches.
“We have a lot of self-taught coaches and it’s something we’re struggling with.
“I aim to recreate my programme, start new programmes within our school systems, and create a stronger rugby culture within Lafayette and the EPRU.
“It will give me the tools to break habits and reach further within my division to excel from within.”
Click here if you are an American coach and would like to win a Premiership Rugby Scholarship. Our next trip will come to the UK in November.