Kathy Flores, revolutionary women's rugby coach, dies at 66

The 1991 Women’s Rugby World Cup ended in a showdown between the brash but underdog Americans and the established England side, the prod...


The 1991 Women’s Rugby World Cup ended in a showdown between the brash but underdog Americans and the established England side, the product of a long British tradition in the sport.

But it was the United States team that won the final, at Cardiff Arms Park in Wales, winning what became the first major world championship ever played in women’s rugby.

Kathy Flores wore number 8 for the Americans, occupying a key position in the center of the field.

During his 40-year career in the sport, Flores has contributed to some of the formative events in American rugby history. She captained the United States women’s rugby team in 1987 and coached the same team from 2003 to 2010, returning with her to the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2006 and 2010. And from 2014 until October 21, when she died of colon cancer at age 66. Providence, RI, she was the coach of the Division I women’s rugby team at Brown University. JF Skeffington Funeral Home in Providence reported her death in a obituary.

Flores’ legacy as a coach was one of inclusion. She lobbied for more support for women’s rugby, telling The Associated Press in 2010 that “women have always wanted to be physical, but they haven’t had the opportunity”.

She also coached the San Francisco Fog, an LGBTQ rugby team, and played for then coached the Berkeley All Blues, a Bay Area semi-pro team, winning 11 league championships from 1994 to 2010.

“I love sports and I want to expose as many people as possible to it, especially young women,” Flores said. Recount The Bay Area Reporter in 2013. “It’s important for their confidence and self-esteem.”

“With the female students, after playing rugby, they start to think about themselves better and realize what they can do better,” she said. “You see them going into interviews differently. Working with homosexuals, I see the same things. After doing a bit of sport, there is a whole change in the way they see themselves, a bit like a blooming flower.

Flores often received a meager salary for playing or coaching rugby, and she reminded in a 2017 BBC interview, the majority of 1991 national team players had taken jobs to support themselves and often lost them when traveling to compete.

Women’s rugby domestically has historically been underfunded and underpromoted compared to men’s rugby, she said in a 2011 article. interview with the Rugby Wrap Up blog.

Asked about her desire to continue coaching World Cup teams, she said she was unsure given the insufficient funding. “It’s paying lip service to say that women are getting support when our Eagles have to hold raffles and sell the kit from the last World Cup to raise money,” she said. “Then it will be the bake sale. Do men do that too?

Women’s rugby has long had to fend for itself. The 1991 World Cup was not organized by the International Rugby Board, the sport’s governing body, but by four players of the Richmond Women’s Rugby Club in Great Britain. They wrote to national teams, reserved pitches for matches and raised funds to cover costs.

The Rugby Board, now called World Rugby, recognized the tournament’s legitimacy in 2009, when in a press release it listed the United States women’s national team as the 1991 champions.

The Americans won that last match of 1991, 19-6, in front of 3,000 fans, whose mere presence was nerve-wracking, Flores said in the BBC interview. “Just, you know, having people watching us was something different,” she said.

The game was a triumph of athletic prowess over the long experience of European rugby teams. “They obviously maybe understood the strategy of the game a little better than us after growing up with it,” Flores Recount scrumhalfconnection.com, a women’s rugby website, “but our fitness and mobility between our fast backs and forwards outlived them.”

But she said US rugby officials failed to capitalize on the team’s success. “They didn’t really promote it like you might have,” she said.

Kathleen Theresa Flores was born on February 7, 1955 in Philadelphia to Catharine (Miles) and Joseph Flores. She graduated from Monmouth Regional High School in New Jersey and attended East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education.

She went to Florida State University for a master’s degree in exercise physiology and started playing rugby there at age 23. (Information about his survivors was not available.)

Zyana Thomas, a Brown senior and women’s rugby player who wears No. 8, as Flores did, said in an interview that Flores, who was of Filipino and Hawaiian descent, was particularly supportive of players of color. And when Thomas experienced homelessness in college, she said, Flores gave him housing.

Last year, the women’s rugby coaching position at Brown, through a donation, was endowed in her name.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Kathy Flores, revolutionary women's rugby coach, dies at 66
Kathy Flores, revolutionary women's rugby coach, dies at 66
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