Coach Q&A: Kate Daley

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Kate Daley, the head coach of women’s rugby at Penn State, shares how the program continually produces strong, confident women and lifelong bonds.

Q: How did you first get into rugby?

A: I started playing rugby in high school. My sister joined a team at the University of Maine and recommended I play it, and I was looking for a sport to play in the spring. It was rugby or lacrosse, and I didn’t have to buy any equipment to play rugby.

Q: What do you think are the benefits of playing rugby?

A: Rugby is a great community. Like when I was in high school, I would practice with a bunch of local teams and also with the men’s program…they’re all very welcoming. Most rugby clubs are super-welcoming. There’s just a great sense of community, no matter where you go in the country.

It’s also a really mentally challenging sport. It’s the only sport where you have to get hit really hard and get up immediately and keep playing. It drives a lot of mental resilience and discipline, just to make yourself get up and do things over and over and over again, that aren’t the most comfortable things to do. On the women’s side in particular, I think it builds a lot of confidence. You’re really physically, emotionally and mentally challenged with the sport. It lends itself to building really confident females.

Q: How did you get into coaching?

A: I graduated from Penn State in 2009 and played for the program while I was here. I was training for the World Cup in 2014 and I moved back here to State College in the spring around February to train for the World Cup for the last six months before it occurred. I was helping out coaching then, in an assistant capacity, very lightly. I broke my leg at the World Cup and I came back to State College… it was convenient for me at that point to step into an interim coaching role. Then from there, the next year, I applied for the position and I was lucky enough to have that position given to me.

Q: What are your favorite rugby moments, both as a coach and a player?

A: My favorite moment as a coach is always seeing a player play their first game. We have really very highly skilled players that are on the national team, but always every year we have a few girls who have never played the sport. So my favorite moment every year is when our new players get to play for the first time…It’s just great to see them, even over the course of a 40-minute half, start to understand the game. As a player, there are too many great memories and moments to count, and most of them have to do with the people I’ve been lucky enough to befriend because of rugby.

Q: How are you a different person today because of rugby?

A: I’m certainly a different person today because I played rugby in college. I’m more self-aware, a little bit more emotionally intelligent because of the opportunities I had with this program. It taught me a lot about leadership, and being able to lead without having really a specific role. Rugby 100 percent shaped the person that I am today. Part of the reason that I coach, is because I just hope that I can give the teams to come the same or a similar experience that I had.

Q: What would you say to a young woman considering rugby?

A: Rugby is going to open more opportunities for you than you could ever imagine…It’s going to be a unique experience and one you’ll walk away with having friends that will most definitely last a lifetime.

Q: Why should alumni and community members support Penn State Rugby?

A: Penn State Rugby has a tradition of building leaders and providing great experiences for young adults to grow. Essentially, by supporting our program, you’re investing in that experience for student athletes who come through the program. You’re investing in leadership development and the future of the program.