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Midwest Thunderbirds Program Names New Women's Coaching Staff

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Midwest Thunderbirds Program Names New Women's Coaching Staff

Midwest Thunderbirds training in 2014. Dropkick photo.

CHICAGO – The Midwest Rugby Football Union has announced its Thunderbird Program Women’s Select Side executive coaching staff.

These individuals will be focused on presenting MWRFU membership with higher performance playing and coaching development opportunities.

“We are extremely excited to present our women’s Thunderbird coaching staff,” said Thunderbird Program Manager and Vice President of Competitions Gary Lobaugh. “They are all wonderful people that also happen to be exceptional rugby coaches and players. We have assembled a staff of former Thunderbirds and Olympians that will serve as tremendous resources for our members.”

This is all part of a movement to revitalize the Thunderbirds program both form men and women. Select Side competition in the USA used to be the the backbone of the country's high performance efforts. But after 2007 the annual National All-Star Championships (also known colloquially as the ITTs) was halted, and the associated Women's U23 and Men's Collegiate NASC were also stopped. The MWRFU is one of the regions that has worked to keep the select-side senior rugby torch lit, and after a brief hiatus, is back with a new coaching staff and a new attitude.

Women's Thunderbird Coachs

Thunderbirds Head Coach: Todd Fabec

Fabec played collegiate rugby at West Virginia before moving to the southwest to play Division 1 rugby for Sante Fe Los Santos. While there, Todd also competed for the Rio Grande Selects and the Anasazi Old Boys.

A Level 300 coach, Fabec transitioned to coaching in 2006 with the Chapel Hill Highlander U19 boys. He also coached U15 boys at Chapel Hill, the U17 and U19 North Carolina All-Stars, and both the men and women’s programs at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. While there, he coached the women’s side to a D1 final eight appearance.

Upon his return to Pittsburgh Fabec coached Robert Morris University and the Moon Area Boys U19 program before becoming the Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Forge Women in 2020.

Assistant Head Coach: Jillion Potter

Potter played collegiate rugby at the University of New Mexico where she was named a Collegiate All-American.

She competed for the Women’s National Team from 2007–2014 in both Rugby 7s and 15s. She represented the Eagles in the 2013 Rugby World Cup 7s (where the USA made the semifinals), the 2014 Rugby World Cup 15s, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Support Coach: Richelle Stephens

Stephens began playing rugby at the historic Fallbrook Girls Rugby Club earning consecutive National Championships from 2012 – 2015. In 2016, Richelle competed for the Women’s National 7’s Team at the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Richelle just completed her career at Lindenwood University where she helped lead that program to national 15s championships in 2017, 2019, and 2021, as well as major 7s championships in 2017, 2019, and 2021. This past season, Richelle won The MA Sorensen Award for Collegiate Rugby Player of the Year.

Support Coach: Libby Berg

Berg played collegiate rugby at St. Benedict’s College where she earned selections to both the Minnesota and USA Rugby U23 programs. She received further selections to the Midwest Thunderbirds and ultimately the Women’s National Team in 2014.

Currently playing for the Minnesota Valkyries, Berg also serves as the Metropolis Men’s Forwards Coach and the Head Coordinator for Minnesota Youth Rugby.

 

The women’s coaching staff will be hosting two assemblies this summer in preparation for elite-level competition this fall. The first assembly will be on July 31, 2021 at the Fortress Obetz outside of Columbus, Ohio. The second assembly will be over the weekend of August 14-15 in Chicago, Ill. Players interested in the Thunderbird Program are strongly encouraged to attend both assemblies, but should attend at least one event. Thunderbird sides will be chosen and scheduled for competition in October – December of 2021.

For more information regarding Midwest Thunderbird Selects, please email admin@midwest.rugby.