WolfPack Athletics adds Pilot Program, Women’s Rugby Sevens

  Posted on: January 10, 2018

The sport of women’s rugby sevens is coming to the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack.

The WolfPack have agreed to be part of the Western Canada Women’s Rugby Seven’s series in the winter of 2018, the second year of a pilot project involving six other schools from Canada West.

Incoming Athletics and Recreation director Curtis Atkinson provides some historical background, “In 2016, Canada West, through a research and planning working group, identified rugby sevens as an emerging sport. In 2017, Canada West, with support from Rugby Canada and B2ten, launched a three-year rugby sevens pilot project called the Western Canada Women’s Rugby Sevens Series. The objectives of the pilot program are: to grow the game, to retain talented student-athletes in Canada, and to build depth of pipeline for the National program.”

The WolfPack program will be run as a club team. The head coach is Derek Pue. He currently coaches the Kamloops Raiders men’s program and is involved in the Thompson Okanagan 16U men’s and BC Rugby Interior Academy. He is also the video analyst for Canada’s under 20 national men’s team.

“Sevens rugby is an incredibly exciting sport that is dynamic and fast paced. It’s taking off in North America because that fast paced action links well to the sporting market,” he says. “We are seeing athletes from traditional Canadian sports like hockey, football, basketball and track making a successful transition to rugby sevens later in their athletic careers. Rugby Sevens debuted at the RIO Olympics and was incredibly popular. We see this program at TRU as being a great first step for student athletes from the interior of BC to get on the national team radar.”

His assistants will be Jesse Olynyk, a former U SPORTS All-Canadian at the University of Victoria. The Sa-Hali grad played provincial and national age rugby as well. Olynyk will be the skills coach and team manager. Kaitlyn Cumming is the other assistant coach after playing Canada West rugby at UVIC and the University of Alberta. She also played for the BC’s 7’s and 15’s women’s teams the last two seasons.

“Both Jesse and Kaitlyn bring a wealth of knowledge about the game as well as an understanding of what it takes to be successful in women’s university rugby,” stated Pue.

The WolfPack will carry a roster of 14 and play in two of the three sanctioned tournaments next month (February 10-11 hosted by the University of the Fraser Valley and February 24-25 hosted by UVIC).

The other teams involved in the Western Canada West Rugby Sevens project are: UBC, Lethbridge, Calgary and Alberta.

“The Western Canada Women’s Rugby Sevens series is a wonderful opportunity to further showcase and develop the amazing talent we have in Canadian University sport,” says Atkinson. “ This series allows female athletes to pursue their sport at a high level with enhanced exposure to the national team.”

The WolfPack have started practicing three days a week. They have short sessions Monday and Wednesday mornings at the TRU gym and a longer session Sunday mornings at the Soccer Dome. “ The aim isn’t to conflict with athletes who are already playing rugby for the local club,’ Pue explains.

If you are interested in trying out, please contact Jesse Olynyk at jesseolynyk@gmail.com

SIDE OUTS: Thompson Rivers University has made a one-season commitment to support the program. It will be reevaluated at the end of the season.