Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme gives Florida coach a unique opportunity

A chance to learn how to inspire players across the pond to fall in love with rugby the way he did proved too good an opportunity for American coach Austin Dacanay to pass up.

The 43-year-old, who lives in Lutz, Florida, will be one of 26 coaches from the USA who are set to land in England today through the Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme.

As part of the once-in-a-lifetime experience, Premiership Rugby will provide the coaches with a comprehensive introduction to the ins-and-outs of a top-tier English rugby club.

Those taking part in the programme will visit Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints and Wasps while taking part in a Level 300 coaching training course, co-delivered by Premiership Rugby and USA Rugby.

For full details of the Premiership Rugby Scholarship programme click here

Having already applied once before for this international education programme, Dacanay was delighted when he was picked as one of the Premiership Rugby Scholarship winners for this year’s trip.

“I have been playing touch rugby since I was a child up until I was a teenager and then started playing full-contact,” said Dacanay, who works as a Chiropractic Physician.

“I found out about Premiership Rugby Scholarships from Scott Lawrence, who is the head coach at Rugby ATL and was actually my roommate at university.

“He told me to apply which I did the first time and sadly I didn’t get selected but then I applied again and fortunately I got picked this time which is so exciting.

“There are a lot of exciting sports to follow over in the USA but what sets rugby apart from them is the spirit of the game and the way that it is played.

“I think rugby embodies human nature in a way because it is quite a primal sport – like civilisation.

“People in America associate rugby with blood and brutality but actually the game is always played in such a humane and compassionate spirit.

“It is about more than just being competitive with each other and there is a lot more to the sport than trying to win – it is above and beyond just competition.”

A former prop for the Philippine Volcanoes, Dacanay is eager to learn everything he can as he prepares to take over as head coach for the University of South Florida men’s rugby team.

His previous experience includes playing and coaching at Tampa Krewe RFC for the last 15 years, while he is also doing regional development with Rugby ATL in Florida.

Dacanay has also served as the team chiropractor for multiple sports teams through his work, including USF Bulls Rugby, Tampa Krewe Rugby and USA Rugby South teams.

But his determination to expand his rugby horizons led him to apply for the Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme, with his persistence paying off the second time around.

The initiative, which is run in partnership with Friends of the British Council and USA Rugby, is the legacy of the Premiership Rugby match played in Philadelphia in October 2017.

Two groups of winners have made the trip to England to support the development of the game in the US by empowering coaches through immersive professional development experiences.

And with the programme also providing an insight into the ways Premiership Rugby clubs are using rugby as a tool for social change, Dacanay admitted he cannot wait to get started.

“I am a real culture guy and I can’t wait to see how top teams in the UK go about their business – that is where I am hoping to learn something I can take home with me,” he added.

“I can’t wait to learn how to instil these rugby values in the players that I work with back home because that is what I love most about the sport.

“Rugby has a different perception over in the UK and if I can use that to inspire players in the USA then the programme will be a success for me.”

Applications for the 2020 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.