Michelle Reed, head coach of the women’s rugby team at Sacred Heart University, was recently elected to the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association’s (NIRA) Executive Committee as the Division I coach chair.
“I am honored to be selected to represent all the NIRA DI rugby programs and their coaches,” Coach Reed said. “It’s a proud moment but now it’s time to see how I can make more of an impact from this position.”
After tearing her ACL in her senior year of high school, she was looking for something to fill the void that her athletic career once held. When she found rugby, the game immediately changed her life. So much so, it brought her across the country to live out her dream as a Divsion I college coach and an advocate for the sport.
Rugby has helped her find her voice, she said. By finding the people she relates to, she was able to develop her self-esteem and confidence.
Her newly established position comes with the opportunity to have more of an impact in helping to grow the sport and reach the 40 teams needed to be a full-fledged NCAA championship sport.
For over 20 years, Reed has been involved with collegiate rugby. In the 2018-19 season, she coached the Pioneers to the NIRA Tier 2 Championships for the first time in program history.
The university’s program is not the only one that has benefited from Reed’s presence. Her players speak about how she has impacted their lives as more than just a coach.
“Honestly, coach Reed has made such a tremendous impact in my life on and off the field,” said senior Izzy Cuddy. “There are so many reasons she stands out, not only for the way she coaches, but also because of the way she is our mental health advocate.”
Her players believe she deserves the coach chair position of the 17-member committee due to the hard work and dedication she has devoted to their program.
“She is a huge reason why I am still on this team and at Sacred Heart today. I know she would do anything for us. She goes above and beyond the typical college coach,” Cuddy said.
“Coach Reed is a great coach that’s very active in all of her players’ lives,” said sophomore Makinzie Youngblood. “She makes sure to check in on our academic and social lives often and shows that she cares about each of us. I know she works tirelessly to put every practice plan together and innovate our game.”
Reed said she believes in what rugby does for young women, on and off the field, and is passionate about providing that opportunity for as many collegiate women as she can.
When discussing goals for the future, she says her main goal is to help develop women’s collegiate rugby into a NCAA championship sport.
She also hopes to grow the program at SHU and provide interested institutions with a successful model that they can turn to when deciding to add a rugby program.
“I want SHU to be a program where Athletic Directors say, ‘I want that to be our university’,” said Reed.
Through the hard work of the student athletes and the athletic administration, Reed believes that Sacred Heart has already built these strong foundations.
“The progress these last five years has been inspiring and motivating,” said Reed. “I am excited for the future and whatever else rugby will bring to my life.”