McCoy, Eagles focused on goals

Following the Women's Eagles Sevens' qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games at the 2015 NACRA Sevens Championships and subsequent silver medal campaign at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, USA Rugby announced Jules McCoy as the team's new head coach. USA Rugby caught up with McCoy as she and the team prepare for the upcoming Women's Sevens Series and Olympics.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - The Women's Eagles Sevens' coaching change occurred in the middle of a high performance camp at the Olympic Training Center last month, but the goals of the athletes in attendance remained the same: exemplify the attributes of an Olympic medalist.

Dr. Jules McCoy, a neurologist, stepped down from the national sevens program following her team's Semifinal appearance at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Not long after the two-point defeat to eventual runner-up New Zealand, Rugby Sevens was added to the Olympic Programme thanks to the decision of the 121st IOC Session.

In the six years since the announcement, the sport has broken new ground in numerous areas around the world. To create a 12-team competition fitting for the Olympic Summer Games stage - the second largest sporting event in the world - the IOC and World Rugby had to ensure there were at least 12 viable participants, and created the then-unbranded Women's Sevens Series in 2012.

See the Eagles on home soil at Atlanta 7s

The likes of Lauren Doyle, Kelly Griffin, and Jillion Potter have graced pitches in Brazil, China, England, and the Netherlands since the first year of the competition, hoping to prove their worth to a podium-oriented program. The aforementioned threesome attended the most recent camp in Chula Vista, while the former two were members of the squad that qualified the U.S. for Rio 2016.

With fewer than 10 months until kickoff at Deodoro Stadium, it is the responsibility of McCoy to turn the fifth-place team on the 2014-15 Series into a top-three, medal contender squad.

"Honestly, we're looking at the circuit as a way of getting ready for Rio," McCoy said. "I believe we'll be competitive on the circuit. We just need some patience in regards to fans, because [the girls have] a new coach. They don't have a new system, but they have a new approach to the game, and we're trying to make sure that we get the best players in our pool so that we can pivot towards the Olympics."

Replacing Ric Suggitt, who led the Eagles to a bronze medal at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 and a top-four finish in the inaugural Series, McCoy - as well as the athletes - had little time to react before turning their minds to the on-field work in mid-September.

"They just want the opportunity," the new head coach said. "You have to think about it from the perspective of the players: if you're an elite-level athlete, you're used to coaching changes. It doesn't have to be this highly-dramatic event; it's par for the course if you're an athlete.

"I witnessed no poor attitudes and no complaints. Everyone put their head down and continued working towards our goal. It's a testament to the players to be able to manage that."

Of course, most of the athletes have been in serious consideration for circuit selection the past few years, and the others understand the rigors of being an international rugby player.

One constant through the coaching alteration is the remaining members of the team's coaching staff, including Assistant Coach Richie Walker, Strength and Conditioning Coach Jared Siegmund, and Head Athletic Trainer Nicole Titmas. McCoy served as a development coach during Suggitt's tenure, and worked with the national team staff while developing American Rugby Pro Training Center in Little Rock, Ark.

"The players need a highly-functioning staff," McCoy said. "With this transition we're working really hard to get to know each other, understanding our nuances.

"In fact, we're having a staff golf event."

Women's Eagles Sevens Camp | Sept. 14-18

Bria Bohanon

Santia Deck

Cheta Emba

Deshel Ferguson

Rachel Griendling

Deven Owsiany

Ashley Perry

Kimberly Semiglia

Kelsi Stockert

Beth Stratton

Nia Toliver

Abby Vestal

Bookmark the Women's Eagles Sevens page on for more on the team as it prepares for the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series and Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games.