Coach Approach: Joy Flanagan (Girls Rugby)

It’s been two years since we started our Girls Contact Rugby programme, and with the community flourishing, we needed more hands on deck! One of those parents who came forward as a mentor and role model for our female players is Joy Flanagan, who has three children with us playing both Rugby and Netball. We asked her what she loves about coaching and girls rugby – here’s what she shared with us.

1. How did you first get involved in Rugby?

I played a lot of sports as a kid; soccer, hockey, basketball, gaelic football, camogie, rounders, gymnastics… anything for a free class! Playing team sports is how I made some of my best friends, people who I am still friends with now. My hometown didn’t have a girls rugby team when I was growing up, so my first real encounter with rugby was through my kids. When we moved to Hong Kong 11 years ago, my eldest daughter started playing rugby – some of her new school friends played so she wanted to join. When considering universities we looked at ones that had active rugby clubs; moving half-way around the world was a scary thought, but a group of girls who she would have an instant connection with made it easier. My two younger girls started playing beach rugby when they were old enough and when we moved to Singapore they joined Girls Super Sunday (GSS) with Centaurs. The head coach asked on the parents WhatsApp group if any mothers were interested in helping out as they were looking for more female coaches specifically for GSS, so I volunteered.

2. Why do you choose to coach?
Coming from a small town in Ireland everything is community driven, all the teams are coached by local volunteers; mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of my team mates. I remember fondly my own coaches who gave their free time to coach the various teams I played on, all of them loved the sport they were involved in – and that love was infectious. I don’t have any bad memories of playing sports, not when as a 10 year old I was cross country running barefoot in Irish winter, not even when I got injured. What I think of when I look back is the friendships the laughter, the singsongs on buses to matches, arriving to training early and leaving late. I wanted my children to have the same love of sport. So when GSS looked for mothers, I volunteered, for my girls. What I didn’t expect was the amazing sense of pride I get when I see your girls, the girls I coach, improve a new skill they have been struggling with, when I share in the joy they get showing me how far they can kick or pass, or how they scored a try.

3. What have you learnt from Rugby?
I learned how resilient, funny, kind, tough, thoughtful, chatty and shy the GSS girls can be. How they can support each other and learn new skills while still being crazy and having fun. I’ve learned that I should have done this earlier and that I miss playing sport myself. Coaching the girls encouraged me to focus on my own fitness challenges, I took back up swimming and running and now that things are opening up I have signed up for some events.

4. What do you hope your daughter/s will take from playing Rugby?
I hope they learn to make friends easily and adapt, when my eldest moved country for work experience, study abroad and then to work, she joined rugby clubs often before moving and instantly made friends before she has set foot in the country. I hope her siblings will continue to love team sports, to try new things and to be resilient.

If you’re keen for your child to take up rugby with Centaurs, or would like to learn more about volunteering as a Coach with us, contact

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