Premiership Rugby Scholarships changing lives for US coaches

Rebecca Trapp

When Rebecca Trapp took the plunge to apply for the Premiership Rugby Scholarship programme, she never imagined just how much her outlook on coaching would change for good.

The Pittsburgh accountant, who has a 20-year association with the sport and has been coaching at every level from high school to college standard, took the decision to further her coaching education earlier this year by visiting the home of rugby.

Getting the chance to seek inspiration from Premiership clubs Harlequins, Saracens and London Irish, the 41-year-old returned to the States brimming with ideas on how to revolutionise the game in her area.

“The Premiership opportunity came up and I really didn’t think I would win,” she said. “I thought I would enter and see what happens, but a chance to go to England and see where rugby was created and learn from coaches there – I was super excited

“I started playing in the late 90s in college. I was lucky enough to play higher representative rugby for the South Territory. I met a lot of really great people very early in my rugby life who were playing for the US Eagles and internationally, so it made me aspire to be like them.

“I moved around a bit from social clubs to more competitive clubs through the different divisions.

“Every time I moved there was always some high school or college programme that needed expertise in the scrum or lineout. I began coaching that way.

“I’ve taken more defined coaching roles as I get older and currently I coach after school rugby programmes, my representative rugby sides for my area’s union and then I coach the university women at Youngstown.

“Meeting the guys from the Harlequins programme was incredibly exciting to hear their take on things.

“Being able to hear about the different core values at the clubs was really great and from London Irish I learned about being more organised when looking at video analysis.

“One of the things I took away was the idea of turning everything into a game. We all play rugby for fun – that’s why it’s a game, not a job. If you’re not having fun, it’s not going to go well.

“I feel like I have improved as a coach as I have worked harder to create different ideas to bring to rugby.”

The Premiership Rugby Scholarships initiative is run in partnership with the Friends of the British Council and USA Rugby and aims to grow the sport in the US.

In March 2018, 16 teenage players and 14 coaches were given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to England and spend a week with several Premiership Rugby clubs.

Since taking part in the programme, Trapp has spent the last year eulogising about the initiative and she’s encouraged other like-minded coaches to try their hand at entering the competition.

“I keep bugging people to go to the video and apply for it,” she said. “It’s one of the greatest experiences you can have as a coach, you get seven days of everything you ever thought you wanted to know about rugby.

“We got kitted up and went out on the field, and we did our clinics. They wanted us to succeed and I felt that personally, so that was, to me, one of the big things too.”