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Last week, the USA Rugby Women’s 7s National Team Coach, Ric Suggitt, spoke with Rugby Today, sharing his thoughts on the future of rugby in conjunction with 7s debut at the 2016 Olympic Games. Furthermore, he commented on the Eagles’ winning performance at the NACRA 7s Championship, which ultimately resulted in the team qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Q. Any thoughts coming out of your team’s recent game against Mexico?

A. The one thing that I was pretty happy about was the attitude of our players during the whole tournament. They went in there with a professional attitude, they were humble in what they were doing, they were mature in what they were doing and so for me that was a real, real benefit. What I looked at almost more than anything else than the score board was (because we had so many new players in) was how they traveled: how they adapted to the change, jet lag and short turn around.

We arrived on the Wednesday and made sure they were firing on all cylinders. That was for me what we looked at because as we get ready to go to the Pan Am Games, we’ll have to go through that sort of thing and then as we get ready again to go from there to Dubai in November it’s a learning process. So what we found in this last trip was that they’re actually really good students of the game.

So I wasn’t too worried about the scores or anything like that.

I’ve lived in Trinidad and Tobago before and I’ve been a lot around the islands doing coaching clinics before. So, I knew the standard of play and watched all their games in December online and I knew where they were at. So going into it, not being over confident, but coming to the realization that we could make some changes and could gain a lot of experience. That’s what we went and it gave us a chance to send some players back home and make sure that they’re on the correct training program and getting ready for the Pan Am Games.

Q. Do you have some sort of roadmap in your mind for the team going forward?

A. Oh, absolutely- we’ve had a four-year plan. Then each year we sit down with John Crowley from the United States Olympic Committee, with Jared Siegmund our strength and conditioning coach and Nicole Titmas our athletic trainer. I started off first designed the four-year plan and then we get into an annual plan, then we get into a yearly training plan. So we know exactly where we’re going and what we’re doing.

Then we leave room inside of there incase we have to make adjustments because the schedule from World Rugby is not always out when we do our planning- we have to be able to make our adjustments week in and week out. So let’s say we pick the same time for Dubai like we did last year and lets say it’s off by a week, because they might change their time- let’s say World Rugby decides they’re going to eliminate one tournament and add another one; we have to be ready for that so we have to leave flexibility inside of our plan.

But we’re very thorough in our planning and Jared does an excellent job in the strength and conditioning plan. Nicole does an excellent job in the rehab plan and you know on the recovery and the regeneration, and inside of there Richie Walker as we finish Pan Am Games he’s been doing player reviews and Richie will use a lot more time to refund elemental skills that we need for team situations so we’re ready to go.

So there’s a lot of work done behind the scenes that a lot of folks maybe aren’t aware of, but it is being done and it is being accomplished. The players are pretty good- like they’ve been put under the radar quite a bit by me and then they bought into it and we had some really good meetings. We had an excellent meeting today with Megan Bonny. She’s made huge improvements over the last 18-24 months and I still think we can add another 20% onto her ability as an athlete and as a player.

Q. You had mentioned the Pan Am Games coming up?

A. Yeah so we fly into Toronto on July 5, the Pan Am Games are the following weekend and we fly home on the 13; so it’s a quick turn around but again we’re ready for those things. They came into NACRA and it was the same thing. We arrived there on the Wednesday and then we played that weekend- so our athletes are ready for it.

Q. Any slowing down at all to enjoy the summer for you guys or are you going straight through?

A. No, no, no. You hit the nail on the head their Clara. We have some athletes that have played their heart out for the Eagles this winter like Kelly Griffin, Megan Bonny, Lauren Doyle and they need some time off. So after the Pan Am Games we’ll sit down with Jared and some of them will have three weeks off, some of them will have four weeks off depending on how much they’ve played. Then Jared will have recovery plans and then we’ll send them on their way.

We don’t want to see them. As much as they love coming to practice and training, they also need a chance to get away and go back home and see family and friends because once I have them, they don’t have a chance to see anyone. All they get to see is the weight room, the dining hall and rugby pitch. So they’re disciplined in what they’re doing and they’re getting better at what they’re doing, so I’m pretty happy for them.

Q. Do you think the women will run a Six-Nation tour in 2016?

A. Yeah. It is quite funny because what you’re doing is you’re guessing what World Rugby will do and what host countries will do. One of the things that we should be very grateful for from USA Rugby is home tournaments and many countries won’t do that. Australia won’t do that and New Zealand won’t do that for the women, but the USA will do that and in Canada will do that even though we are not traditional rugby playing nations in the avenue of women’s 7s.

So that’s only good for North American rugby. It’s expensive to run most tournaments and so for USA Rugby to have the faith in our women’s program to put the money behind that- I think it’s a good move no ands, ifs, buts about it.

People say, “Oh well you didn’t get a lot of folks there at that tournament. Oh well you didn’t get a lot of folks there at that one in Atlanta.” And I just laugh because I don’t know if fans will remember but I was around on the men’s circuit before it was actually an IRB series and I remember going to Shanghai and Beijing. They had to bus kids into the stadium and we stayed in some pretty crappy hotels. But what is have going on for the women right now, as far as tournaments are concerned, you know World Rugby and some of the host nation’s have done an excellent job in providing facilities for athletes. So we’re getting there and I just think that if we hold up our end of the deal and have a really good performance at the Olympics, then it’ll open some more programs for colleges and more scholarships will open up. Hopefully it’ll drop down even lower to high school, which is always the old man’s dream.

Q. Did you ever think you’d see rugby head to the Olympic Games?

A. If you asked me say in 2007- when we were going to the Commonwealth Games with the Canadian teams, watching how magnificent it was to be the closing event in Manchester. I looked over at my friend Doug Tate, Head Coach of the University of Victoria, and said, “You know this is going to happen in the Olympics and it will be the closing event, especially with the men’s game. I think you get the women’s game first and the men’s game right after as the closing event.”

Now did I really believe it would happen? No, but I was wishful that it was and then when the opportunity came up to come down to the states I jumped all over it and I happened to be the lucky guy to get the job.

The Eagles will be a part of the Pan Am Games July 11-12 at Exhibition Stadium in a pool with Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia and Mexico. These teams will partake in a round robin preceding a single knockout match.