UNIVERSITY PARK, Penn. – A blizzard prevented Rich Ashfield from making his debut with the Women’s Eagles in January. In February, similar conditions almost kept the new kicking coach from joining the team at the ETC camp.
Pushing through the snow, Ashfield made the trek from Providence, R.I., to State College, Penn., for the team’s two-day partial-assembly.
“It was a bit harrowing, but I made it,” said the Beantown RFC head coach. “I wasn’t going to let the snow stop me this time.”
Once at the camp, Ashfield made the most of his first appearance, leading the back-focused sessions. With ease and a serious demeanor, the Irishman pushed the players through drills and exercises that revolved around team tactics.
Although new to Pete Steinberg’s official staff, the Providence College grad cites his prior work with pool players as the reason for such an easy introduction.
“I’ve worked with almost all of the players before,” Ashfield said. “I led the Boston ETC camps and coaching at Beantown, I have come across most of the players before in some capacity.”
While the elite level of play might intimidate most coaches, Ashfield was able to rely on prior experience when leading back sessions.
“You think that with it being elite, international level rugby that you have to bring something extraordinary, or do something that has never been done before, but in reality they are regular players just like everyone else,” Ashfield said. “They have the same issues that everyone else has and you don’t need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ just to coach them.”
Reflecting on his hiring, the kicking coach hopes to make a difference for the Women’s Eagles.
“I am very excited to be joining the staff of the team I have had the opportunity to work with through Eagle Training Centers and it has been a great experience,” he said.
Due to his prior involvement with the squad, the coach is already behind many of the team’s visions.
“I know the main focus is ‘Final in ‘14,’ and my aspirations would be for everyone involved to play to their full potential and achieve that goal,” said Ashfield. “I hope I can bring an attention to detail and focus on an individual skill that will help the team achieve its goals.”
Steinberg sees Ashfield as being a big asset to the team.
“Rich is a great coach and I think he will be incredibly valuable to us in the coming seven months,” the head coach said. “Kicking is a very important aspect to the game and Rich’s background brings the tools we will need to excel in that facet of the game.”
Ashfield brings an extensive playing and coaching résumé to the Women’s Eagles staff.
In addition to his current coaching position at Beantown, the Irishman has also led the Northeastern Rugby Union (NRU) Senior Women’s (2010-11) and U23 Women’s (2007-09) teams in addition to Providence College’s Women’s team (2001-08).
Titles have been earned during every stint as head coach for Ashfield, claiming the National All Star Championship for the Senior Women’s team in both 2010 and 2011, as well as in 2009 with the U23 Women’s squad. In 2005, the back-minded specialist led Providence to a Division II National Championship.
Additionally, the fullback served as a player-coach for the Providence Men’s Club from 2002-04.
On the playing side of his rugby résumé, Ashfield holds a 14-year playing career, suiting up for six teams during that time.
Beginning in 1996, Ashfield dove right into the game, donning jerseys for Lisburn, the University of Dundee, and the Scottish University U19 squad.
Before moving to Providence in 2001, Ulster Juniors and the Friends School Lisburn saw the coach further his knowledge and career. Providence Men’s Club was home to Ashfield for the next nine years, before he hung up the boots in 2010.
The Women’s Eagles are slated to assemble in March before their contests with northern foe Canada in April. Dates and locations for the assembly and matches have yet to be confirmed.
Two matches against Canada will serve as the team’s first tests in preparing for the 2014 IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup.