By Al Beeber on June 10, 2021.
University of Lethbridge Pronghorn Athletics have hired the fourth coach in the history of its women’s rugby program.
Graeme Moffat, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, will also take the helm of a new initiative designing and implementing a coaching development program for all Pronghorn coaches.
Moffat was introduced to media Wednesday at the university.
His hiring comes after Pronghorn Athletics did an external review and accepted a recommendation to separate the roles of women’s head coach and athletic director, retaining the continuing full-time position of head women’s rugby coach, a position that had been previously in place.
Last year, Moffat served as an assistant coach with the Pronghorns in a season with no games, working three days a week with the team during the fall.
Moffat first came to Canada for a six-month job in Red Deer as a player/coach and “I fell in love with Canada. I thought it was an incredible place to live,” he said.
The opportunity came for him to coach in Canada full-time in 2010 and his former employer gave him a two-year sabbatical which gave him a chance to get accustomed to the Canadian lifestyle. He met his eventual wife here and the couple now has two children.
From 2011, Moffat served with the Canadian national rugby program as an attack, backs and skills coach until 2018.
He was also on staff for the U20 Canadian team which were runner-up at the 2013 junior world trophy tournament.
Since 2017, while based in Calgary he has been executive director of Rugby Alberta. He was previously director of rugby for that organization and led the Prairie Wolf Pack senior mens team to the Alberta program’s first national championship in 2015.
He also has spent seven years with Rugby Canada as an assistant coach with a highlight being on the staff of the national team at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in Canada.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate with the opportunities I’ve had in rugby so far,” he said.
Before coming to Canada he was a sport and fitness lecturer at Telford College in Edinburgh and in his youth, played for the Scottish U18 team.
“I was really impressed with everybody I met, the attitude and vision they had for Pronghorn athletics and I think that’s evident in the coaches he (athletics director Neil Langevin) has recruited in other programs,” said Moffat.
“The last 18 months have been difficult for everybody, more difficult for some than others and I think everybody’s looking forward to getting back to what the new normal will be, to come back and train and have that community around other teammates, I think which is incredibly invaluable and I’m certainly looking forward to that,” he said.
Of his development role he said, “coach development is something I’m incredibly passionate about; I’ve been extremely fortunate over the years to be coached by some great coaches and had some great mentors.
“I’m probably a naive expert in that I don’t know much about other sports and nobody’s threatened because I couldn’t teach swimming or basketball or anything like that so I think it will be a good opportunity to collaborate.”
“I always feel that coaches are often on their own, and you know they’re the leader of everything and the fall guy for everything so how can we create a support mechanism for coaches in Pronghorn Athletics so they get an opportunity to grow and develop? Because if we aren’t growing, how can we expect our players to grow?
“So we need to lead by example, and I’m particularly looking forward to that part.”
When asked about the objectives for his first season, Moffat said “everything’s going to come down to two things” from the players perspective: “one, do the players like me?’ and two ‘can I make them better?’
“For me it’s going to be around investing a lot of time and (building) good relationships in the beginning. That’s going to be incredibly important. Personally, I’ve yet to be influenced by somebody that I don’t have a good relationship with and coaching is about leadership, and leadership is about influence so how can I positively influence the team and start to move in the direction that we want to go?
“I sense a great deal of community in the department and within the city. And I think and creating that having that sense of community is going to be one of our first objectives And I’m a huge believer that girls bond to battle so we have to, in the short preparation window that we’ll have, how do we bond and create the best possible culture that we can?
“And so if we can get the culture right, that will drive the behaviours and the behaviours will drive the performance, and that will hopefully allow us to build on the legacy” that has been created in the program over its 21-year history, he said.
“I’m fortunate to meet a lot of girls last year; obviously there’s athletes that have graduated and who are moving on and there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to identify players over the last couple years with programs being kind of closed down.
“So it’s going to be a busy rest of the month looking at which players we can actively recruit and how do we work with the players that we have. There are some phenomenal athletes here, some great players that previous coaches have done a fantastic job of skillin’ and I look forward to hopefully supporting them.”
Moffat added “we want to create a culture of development where players can grow and hopefully the university Pronghorns rugby team will be known for that. If they come here, they’ll develop their game which I think is important.”