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Signes Gets Much-Deserved Honor At Club 7s Nationals

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Signes Gets Much-Deserved Honor At Club 7s Nationals

Emil Signes receives the cheers as he is introduced at the Club 7s Nationals. Rob Wagner Dropkick Photos.

USA Rugby bestowed a much-agreed-with honor this past weekend when it named the Club 7s Championships trophy after Emil Signes.

Signes is the godfather of American 7s, the founder of the Atlantis program and the mentor to dozens of national team players, both men and women. Through his coaching and his energy in taking Atlantis 7s teams to tournaments all over the world, Signes has exposed over 1,000 athletes to high-level competition, and his teams have won over 1,000 7s games.

In addition, it was Signes who led the international drive to have a Women's 7s World Cup, which had a direct influence on getting rugby 7s into the Olympics.

So Signes is American rugby 7s, in many ways. He is beloved by his players, and rightly so. Naming the Club 7s trophy after him seemed especially fitting.  

"It was an amazing honor to be the person named on the Sevens Club Championship trophy to be awarded to the national club sevens champions each year," Signes told Goff Rugby Report. "I don’t want to diminish my contributions to international sevens, but I realize that I was just a guy that was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, one that chose to coach sevens at every opportunity because it was what I loved doing.

It was kind of like you backing the right horse, on a whim, before anyone – even you – recognizes that it’ll be the winner."

Signes said he wasn't a fortune-teller (and he certainly wasn't a fortune-seeker), but once he understood what had to be done, he put everything into it.

"I would have poured my heart and soul into sevens even had it remained a club sport," said Signes. "My real moment of brilliance – if there was one – was listening to the select-side women I was coaching in the early 90s, who urged me to start a women’s sevens program in the US. That was the push that got the sevens stone steamrolling down the Olympic hill."

Signes started with the Atlantis women in Hong Kong in 1996, and after pushing hard to get a true international 7s tournament in Hong Kong, he started to lobby for the 7s World Cup. It took 12 years for that dream to come to fruition, but it happened, and seven months later, the IOC voted rugby in as an Olympic sport.

"If I got the ball rolling, I’m thrilled to see the results and this past weekend - from a personal point of view - was the icing on an already sweet cake," said Signes. "Sevens is too good a game for [the Olympics] not to have happened eventually, but I’m happy that I was one of the first ones to put the metaphorical stone in motion. Sometimes being in the right place at the right time can be over-praised and diminish those that improved the trajectory and perfected the final product, but, I have to admit, the honor I received on Sunday was pretty rewarding. It's an honor that should be shared with many, but ... I'll take it!"