The Harvard athletic department announced the hiring of Sue Parker as the first head coach for women’s rugby on May 8, 2013, as the program will begin play in the 2013-14 academic year.
Women's rugby will be the 21st varsity sport for women and 42nd varsity sport overall at Harvard making the university the nation's leader in both areas.
“We are excited to have Sue Parker join us as our first coach of Varsity Women’s Rugby,” said Bob Scalise, Harvard’s Nichols Family Director of Athletics. “We believe that she will provide excellent leadership both for our program and athletes. As the head coach of the first varsity women’s rugby program in the Ivy League, she will also be a leader in the rugby community as a whole, a role I am sure she will fulfill with equal ability and enthusiasm.”
“I share Harvard’s philosophy that rugby presents a unique educational opportunity to its student-athletes,” Parker said. “I am thrilled to be joining the athletic department as the head coach of women’s rugby, and am very much looking forward to working with such an exceptional team of women.”
Parker, who brings a host of national team and international competition experience to Cambridge, served as head coach for women’s rugby at Navy from 2002-08 and 2011-13, establishing a perennial national championship contender in Annapolis, Md. Parker cultivated a positive team culture in the club environment, while sustaining excellence on and off the field. She developed players in all facets of the game and oversaw the strength and conditioning program for the team at Navy. In addition, several members of the Midshipmen earned spots on various national teams. Parker also worked to form an alumni network and led all fundraising efforts.
Parker was the head coach of the Washington, D.C. Furies Women’s Rugby Football Club during the summers of 2010-12, establishing the team as one of the best in the country on a consistent basis.
In 2009, Parker was tabbed head coach of the USA Women’s 7s Rugby National Team, and she managed all aspects of the squad and program. She led the team at the Dubai International Tournament, and created a city-based league to serve as the beginning of a high-level infrastructure for developing the game in the United States.
From 2007-08, Parker worked as an assistant coach for the USA Women’s 7s Development Team, and frequently acted as head coach in international competitions, including the North American Caribbean Rugby Association in the Bahamas in 2007 and the National All-Star Championships from 2007-08. Parker also served as an assistant coach for the USA Women’s U-23 15s squad from 2003-07.
The Chair of the USA Rugby Women’s Collegiate Strategic Committee, Parker helped draft the vision statement promoting women’s rugby to NCAA varsity status and presented the plan to the USA Rugby Board of Directors. Parker is also a member of the USA Rugby Women’s NCAA Committee and is a non-voting member of the USA Rugby Women’s Collegiate Competitions Committee.
Parker, a former member of the USA Rugby 7s Eagle from 1997-2000, holds several rugby coaching education certificates including the iRB Sevens Level I, USA Rugby Level I and II and the Developing Rugby Skills Course. She is also a USA Rugby Level I Instructor.
A 1986 graduate of the University of Maryland, Parker was a member of the women’s track & field team for four seasons. She also attended Virginia Law School, earning her degree in 1990. Parker is a member of the American Bar Association and holds Bar memberships in New York, Maryland and the District of Columbia, as well as the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fourth and Federal Circuits and the United States District Courts for the Southern District of New York and the District of Colorado.
Harvard will be the first Ivy League institution to sponsor a varsity rugby program and continues to lead the field with its long tradition of supporting athletics for women. This tradition began in the 19th century when Radcliffe College, its sister school, offered tennis and basketball teams. In 1923, Radcliffe competed in the country's first intercollegiate swimming meet. The women's rugby club, which began in 1982, has won two national championships (1998, 2011) in the club ranks.
Division I women's rugby is currently classified as a National Collegiate Athletic Association emerging sport. This designation is used to encourage growth of opportunity at the intercollegiate level in these sports. According to USA Rugby, growth of the sport has increased exponentially at the high school and intercollegiate level and currently there are over 300 collegiate women's rugby clubs. The sport of rugby also returns to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 after being recognized in four previous Games.