Kathy Flores. You probably haven’t heard her name before, but you should have. Not only is she the coach of the women’s rugby team at USF, but also the head coach of the national women’s rugby team.
Easygoing and smiling but still determined, Coach Flores goes back over her past, her work and her passion for rugby.
San Francisco Foghorn: Hello Kathy! Thanks for giving us some of your time. Can you talk to us about your background?
Kathy Flores: I have a B.S. degree in physical education from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. Then, I did a masters program in exercise physiology at Florida State University where I got introduced to rugby. I was 23 and I basically never stopped being involved in rugby; after 24 years I still love it! I played for the USA national team at the first World Cup for women in 1991, which we actually won, and I retired from playing in 1994 to become a coach. I coached the women’s Berkeley All Blues from then to 2006, with whom I won 10 championships. I was appointed the USA rugby national team (Eagles) coach in 2003 until September 2010, after World Cup 2010.
SFF: Why did you choose to play rugby? What does rugby bring you?
KF: I’ve always been very physical, playing basketball, being on the track team and playing football with the men. When I found rugby, it was like a revelation: I had finally found my sport! Rugby is not just about the physical; it has a very mental and strategic component which is what drew me to it in the first place.
SFF: How long have you been coaching at USF?
KF: I started working with the USF women last fall. I have been with the national team since 2003, after I completed an application process held at the USA Rugby Headquarters.
SFF: Women’s rugby is unfortunately not a popular sport in general. What do you do to make it more popular?
KF: Well, I think it needs exposure…much like what you are willing to give us with this article. Rugby can be very fun and spark the competitive streak in women as well, even though some can shy away from the contact. We stress the running and handling during our initial practices. I believe that if more young women saw rugby played on campus, they might be willing to try it, because unfortunately, it’s not a sport that many have had the opportunity to see in person. We often get many new freshmen to sign up at Koret Night to come to an introductory practice, but lack of facilities – as we cannot always get the Negoesco field due to community events – can hurt the legitimacy of our program. Sports Clubs administration does the best it can to organize space for us, but there is only one field for the whole campus.
SFF: What do you say to people who denigrate women’s rugby?
KF: I say you may not want to play, but don’t disparage those who do, especially if you don’t know about the sport. It’s obviously a physical sport and not just reserved for men.
SFF: What wishes do you have for the future of women’s rugby?
KF: On an international level, I would love for rugby to become an Olympic sport to validate and highlight all those young women athletes who give up their time and money to represent their country. Most companies understand “Olympics” but don’t think being on a national team is the same thing.
For more information about the womens’ rugby club at USF visit USFRugby.com