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Americans Visit Laos On Rugby Outreach

irish rugby tours

Americans Visit Laos On Rugby Outreach

Lao Rugby representatives visited Queens University first. Lisa Law photo.

Today capped the end of a rugby exchange between the USA and Laos, with a group of coaches and player-coaches visiting Lao rugby clubs and cultural sights to make a connection between the two countries.

The trip was funded by a US State Department grant and centered around an initiative run by Women Win, a global non-profit with a mission to advance the playing field that empowers girls, young women, and their communities through sport and physical activity. In 2018, WW received funding from the US State Department to lead a program called “Advancing the Playing Field: Empowering the Most Marginalized Youth Through Sport.” Women Win then partnered with educational institutions and local organizations, including Queens University of Charlotte, Charlotte Junior Rugby Association, and Memphis Inner City Rugby to execute this program. 

Katie Wurst, Director of Rugby at Queens, helped spearhead the rugby side of this project and accompanied a group that included young players who are developing their coaching chops along with accomplished coaches.

“We wanted to have young people in the group because they could connect well with the young people in Laos and also learn more about how to coach the game,” said Wurst. “Then there’s the cultural exchange part, when you see a new place, new people, and learn a lot from that.”

Wurst has a long history with rugby in Laos, having spent time there coaching the national team and retaining contact with that country. She hosted members of the Lao rugby community at Queens (see photos) and now is returning the visit with interest.

The group arrived in Laos on December 16 and had a busy agenda including:

Visiting with the Lao Rugby Federation

Observing Pass It Back sessions, which are run by ChildFund

Visiting a Phonesavan Market and later making a Lao-style meal together

Participating in a Tag Rugby Laws clinic

Attending a training session with rugby clubs such as XHK and VTE

Attending a coaching panel

Visiting cultural sites and the Mekong Market

It was a packed week.

Who went:

Finn Boughner
Coach with Charlotte Junior Rugby Association.

Donovan Law
Head Coach of the Matthews Mustangs youth team and a HS All American player and standout for the Charlotte Tigers. Despite still being in high school he holds a Level 200 certification as a coach.

Darius Law
Head Coach for the Matthews Bears youth team. As a player he is a HS All American and star for thr Sharlotte Tigers. As a high-schooler he holds a Level 200 Coaching certification.

Jason Paquette
Coach for the Charlotte Tigers and Matthews Mustangs in North Carolina.

Alex Paquette
Team Captain for the Charlotte Tigers and also captain of the Charlotte Rugby select-side. Alex also holds a Level 200 coach certification.

Samuel Johnson
Coach of the Freedom Prep boys and also coaches with the Dubois Middle School program in Memphis, Tenn. He is active in Memphis Inner-City Rugby and also played at Lindenwood-Belleville. A Level 200 coach, he is working on his 300 certification.

Shaniah Jones
Through MICR, Shania has led multiple coaching sessions with younger girls and boys to teach the basics of the sport. A Freedom Prep and MICRY captain, she has Level 200 coaching certification and has a referee certification. 

Faith Walker
The Head Coach of Freedom Prep, she holds a Level 200 coaching certification. 

Leroy Taylor
Captain of MICR rugby and a development coach.

Mickey Evans
Assistant coach for the South Greenville HS team and active with CJRA, Evans is also on the staff of Queens University of Charlotte.

Abigail Berberich
Team captain at Queens University of Charlotte women’s team and a certified referee.

Bridget Mielke
Player with Queens University of Charlotte and a coach with the South Meck High School girls team.

Dana Meschisi
Assistant coach for the women’s team at Queens University, Meschisi has been an athlete/strength and conditioning coach at Scion Rugby. She also plays for the San Diego Surfers and the D.C. Galaxy Touch Rugby teams.

Kelly Sager
A player with the Charlotte Rugby Club and former standout for Penn State, Sager currently holds a Level 200 coaching certification and is a volunteer coach at Queens University of Charlotte.

Program Coordinators:

Lisa Law: CJRA
Law is the program coordinator for this trip and is the team manager and photographer for the Charlotte Junior Rugby Association.

Katie Wurst: Queens University of Charlotte
Wurst is Director of Rugby and Head Coach of the Queens University of Charlotte women’s rugby team. She has completed a doctoral degree in Kinesiology, holds a Level 300 coach certification, and is also a World Rugby Trainer and active member of the training and education core at USA Rugby. She has also served as the Lao women’s national team coach, while living and working in Laos.  

Andrea Wensits: MICR
Wensits is the Program Director for Memphis Inner-City Rugby, which is an organization that intentionally partners with schools in low-income neighborhoods that do not have the resources to produce traditional after school sports.