PK: Kathy, thanks for taking the time to chat. It’s been about a year since we were finishing up at the IRB Women’s World Cup. What’s been going on since?
KF: It takes a while to come back to Earth but I hit the ground running to get a women’s team going at the University of San Francisco. I was also approached by the San Francisco FOG men’s club as Head Coach, and I am happy to say I’m working with them also. I missed local coaching. I stopped coaching the All Blues on the lead up to the World Cup. I loved working with the Eagles, but you never get enough time with them, so I’m happy to be coaching where I feel I can have more of an impact.
PK: Back for another season with the Berkley All Blues? Tell us about it.
KF: I wasn’t sure I could do it. I’m already coaching 2 other teams and as everyone likes to practice Tuesday and Thursday. The All Blues were able to work with my time restrictions and my other teams are not in their competitive seasons now, so it’s working. Brandon Sparks is the Assistant Coach and Alex Williams is the Technical Coach. The All Blues are close to my heart – having played with and coached some of the best players in the country, so it’s great to be involved with them again.
PK: Your rugby career; when did you debut for the National Team and how many caps?
KF: Well, I didn’t start until I was out of college at 23 (1978) for Florida State University. There was no division between college and club – we all just played club. I consider myself lucky as the women were monstrously competitive, even if they could party till dawn, and I learned from their passion. We traveled everywhere by van – even to Chicago for some of the National Championships! You did what you had to. Of course, that was back when tries were only 4 points and no lifting in lineouts – the Dinosaur Age. 🙂 My first opportunity with the Eagles was to Captain the first international match vs Canada, which we won. I think I have 7-9 caps? Sorry, I don’t really keep track of things like that. I don’t mean this in an egotistical fashion, I just more remember playing with and against international players that have become friends without counting the number of caps. I could look it up and get back to you.
PK: How many national club titles have you won as a coach? What would it mean to win your first WPL Title? Any thoughts on upsetting the current WPL champs, ahem, New York Rugby Club?
KF: I think it’s been 12….I count the first couple when I was a player/coach, back in the day when you COULD do that. It would be fantastic to claim a WPL Title, but In terms of upsetting the champs? Well, that’s too far in the distance to tell. I always take the games one at a time and if we are doing what we are setting out to do in practices, we will meet someone in the Finals. 🙂 But I’m more concerned with our standard of play and teammates holding each other to that standard.
PK: You have certainly shared in a number of pinnacle victories. One really HUGE one comes to mind – 1991 World Cup. That was the only time in the history of our sport, women or men, the USA has ever reigned as World Champions. What does it mean to you? Were you all invited to the White House?
KF: USA Rugby still celebrates the 1920 and ’24 Olympic wins with hardly a mention of the women winning the 1991 World Cup. I think it’s the only time we have EVER beaten New Zealand. I know when the final whistle went we were elated, shocked, tired, just about every emotion you could think of to know we were the World Champions! It was the closest thing to an Olympic title I thought we’d ever see – obviously until now. What I hope it means to players now is that we CAN win even when no one thinks we can. Yes, we were invited to the White House, but I was unable to attend. Many of my teammates – Jan Rutkowski, Tara Flanagan and Annie Flavin to name a few – were on hand to meet with Barbara Bush.
PK: Kathy, it is interesting how none of the media moguls nor USA Rugby mention the 1991 World Cup Victory. Actually, that’s a bit concerning to be honest.
PK: Can you see yourself coaching at the international level again? Is there a desire to bring home another World Cup?
KF: I’m not sure. It’s emotionally draining. I enjoy working with top level athletes but the lack of time is not great. I understand the restrictions but you will never really get the time you need – as women – because the funding is not there. The Eagle Women have been on the cusp of breaking into the top 4 for the last 8 years. With other countries now supporting their women more, it will only get harder. It’s lip-service to say the women get support when our Eagles have to do raffles and sell last World Cup’s gear to raise money. Next it will be bake sales. Are the men are doing this too? Things have gotten somewhat better – players get a stipend for longer assemblies, plane tickets paid for…But and we need to move forward -visually promoting the women as much as men… I guess I got off on a tangent. I’ll leave it at I’m not currently looking to be involved and enjoy working locally because we train together week in and week out.
PK: What will it take for Team USA to bring that cup and Olympic gold home?
KF: Monetarily, there will be support for 7s players to train and compete. 15s may benefit from those same players, but that won’t make a whole 15s squad. It gets harder and harder for players to commit to being a 15s players when we are asking them to set aside close to 2 months non-World Cup and 3+ for World Cup year. Still, never say die! Australia and New Zealand do it with little funding and rugby is their top sport. Domestically we have to hope the WPL will continue. I understand the current WNT administration feels it will fail due to the cost and encourages players to go play elsewhere. While I understand the allure to play abroad, this undermines the purpose of the WPL to increase the standard and level of play IN OUR COUNTRY. NZ and England are strong because of their domestic competitions. We can’t say the WPL competition is no good because it’s expensive. 7s will help 15s play by 1) Giving exposure through televised coverage and 2) Getting players involved at an early age because everyone wants to be an Olympian. I know there are youth programs now but as The Olympics gets closer and closer, parents are going to want their child involved and will no longer be hesitant due to the contact because it’s now in the Olympics.
PK: Thanks, Kath. You’ve given us a lot to think about.
KF: Thank you.
Tomorrow, Kiwi Host Johnathan Wicklow Barberie and Aussie correspondent Bruce Bogan, go at it re the RWC.