Following an extensive search, the York Lions have found their new women’s rugby coach as York Athletics & Recreation announced the hiring of Jennifer Russell on June 22 as head coach of the program.
Russell, a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, becomes the sixth head coach in program history. She brings with her a successful coaching pedigree and a strong familiarity with the Lions program, having served as the Lions assistant coach for the last three seasons.
“Jenn is a strong leader, who lives and breathes rugby and her enthusiasm for the sport is contagious,” said Bart Zemanek, manager of Varsity Athletics. “I am extremely confident in her knowledge and vision to lead the Lions to the top of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) standings and we’re thrilled to hire her as head coach.”
A former star on Western’s rugby team and with the Ontario Storm provincial team, Russell began her Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) coaching career in 2013 with the Mustangs Rugby 7’s squad after her playing career was cut short due to injury. With three years experience already with the Lions, Russell is excited to begin the next chapter in Lions women’s rugby as the head coach.
“I am extremely honoured to be selected as head coach of not only such a great team, but an incredible group of athletes, students and women,” said Russell. “I’ve learned a great deal serving as an assistant under one of my mentors Joe Costello for the last three years and I’ll be forever grateful to him for encouraging me to become involved in coaching at the CIS level. I understand the talents, potential, and areas of opportunity for this team and it’s honestly very exciting. We are heading into a very strong season having graduated only three athletes, and with a high performing 2015/2016 recruitment class moving into their second year, our goals will be set high.”
In addition to her coaching duties with the Lions, Russell will continue in her role as coach of the Ontario Storm’s Under-18 central hub program. Her coaching history also includes a stint as head coach and director of women’s rugby with the Toronto Nomads Rugby Football Club and head coach of the varsity women’s rugby team at Havergal College. One of three siblings to play rugby at a high level, Russell’s two younger sisters Kelly and Laura are two of the current leaders and key players within Rugby Canada’s national team program.
Russell will make her debut behind the bench when the Lions kick-off the 2016 regular season at home on Friday, Sept. 9 at 7pm against the Brock Badgers.