Fridays With Phaidra: Joanne Ward, Team USA Coach talks with Eagle Phaidra Knight

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A perennial Team USA Eagle, Phaidra Knight is one of the most recognized names in women’s rugby. Today, she chats with former Eagle and current Team USA Assistant Coach, Joanne Ward Kos.

PK: Jo, thanks for taking the time to tell me and the World of rugby more about you.
Jo: No problem.

PK: Where did you grow up and what were some of the sports you played? Also, were there any you were interested in but weren’t available?
Jo: Vestal, NY it just outside of Binghamton. The main sport I played was soccer, captain my senior year and on tons of select sides. I tried other sports like volleyball and swimming but soccer was my life back then.


PK: Tell us about you rugby origin. When and where did you begin playing this incredible sport?
Jo: In college (1997) I couldn’t play NCAA soccer because SUNY ESF, (where I went) their students couldn’t play for Syracuse’s NCAA teams. So in the first week of classes, a friend of mine invited me out to a rugby practice. Within one year I had stopped playing on the few remaining soccer select sides I was on and was fully committed to rugby.

PK: And when did you debut for the USA 7s Team?
Jo: Within a few years I found my way onto U23 Select Sides. From there Emil found me and invited me to my first 7’s camp in 2001. From that camp I was selected to represent the USA 7’s team on their tour to New Zealand (2001)

PK: For how long did you play with Team USA?
Jo: I was in the 7’s selection pool ever since and my last tour with the team as a player was Vegas 2010.

PK: You are unique to most in this country in that you were not so long ago a player and now you are an assistant coach for the USA 7s Team. You know what I am about to ask right?
Jo: Yup.

PK: Here it goes…..Which do you like best, playing or coaching? Why?
Jo: They both are great for their own time. I Loved playing 7’s for the US and my Territory team. The enjoyment of training hard, to make the team and to go with a great group of girls to an amazing venue, was all worth it. Now that I have transitioned over, I love helping build a team, training with them and watching them perform at the highest levels. Coaching and Playing have their challenges and that is why I love this sport so much, it keeps you on your toes, working hard – either in front of the ball or from the side.

PK: Speaking of coaching, how is it coaching as an assistant to Ric “Sluggo” Suggitt? I have heard only rave reviews!
Jo: We have great interactions with one another. We see a lot of the game in the same way. But I don’t hesitate to tell him if I might be thinking of some things in a different why. We then go back and forth which helps me learn the coaching side of the game that much more. He works really hard off the field and has tons of knowledge about the game, that I am just starting to get into with him.

PK: Do you hope to one day take the reign of head coach?
Jo: Not really, but never say never. I love being behind the scene. I give great input to Ric but still have a lot to learn yet as a coach.

PK: One of the unique characteristics of 7s is that many of the venues feature both male and female teams. What impact does this have on the sport in general? Could 15s benefit from a similar format?
Jo: 7’s is structured in a tournament setting. In 15s there would just be to many people for that.

PK: Our current USA 7s squad has encountered some loses since the inaugural 7s World Cup. Although I am a firm believer that failure is a springboard to success, I am interested to know, what has been the biggest reason for those losses? Are their changes on the way?
Jo: The WC squad was an older group that I grow up playing rugby with. The key figures have come back around in the last year to strength and share their knowledge of the game. The youth will build up just like we did back in 2005 to get back on that platform.

PK: What will it take for Team USA to bring home a World Cup in 2013 and a medal in 2016?
Jo: Hard work and sacrifice. We need to work together as a squad as much as we can, so we can build and strengthen the skills needed to win gold.

PK: Jo, thanks again for sharing with us today. Congratulations on your successes and best wishes in the future.
Jo: Thank you, we are looking forward to Dubai in Dec. and thank you to all of our 7’s supporters.