USA lock Lauren Daly (center) at the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup / All photos: KLC fotos
Last year, Penn State Rugby launched a nationwide search for a Director of Operations and found its fit in Lauren Daly. The former Eagle and founder of Aspire Rugby has a wealth of playing and coaching experience, and looks to further the storied traditions of both the men’s and women’s programs.
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Thirty-two-year-old Daly found rugby while a freshman at the University of Colorado (’10) and learned the game from Jim Stebbins, Sadie Thomronski and Katie Wurst, the current Director of Rugby at Queens University of Charlotte.
“They all made a big impact on me,” noted Daly, who later returned to Colorado to coach the forwards for a year. “They were very knowledgeable, supportive and involved not only with our team but rugby in the region.”
Daly’s introduction to rugby outside of the Rocky Mountain area occurred in 2009 for a USA Rugby Collegiate All-American assembly.
Daly and Kate Daley in France 2014 / Photo: KLC fotos
“That year was the first time members of an All-American team ever assembled,” Daly explained. “I remember flying to Little Rock, Arkansas, to meet the other ladies on the team for the first time. We assembled and then turned around to play together the same week against the best women’s club rugby players in the country. That was a special experience for me.”
It’s also where Daly met the future Penn State women’s head coach, Kate Daley. Both remained in the system as the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup approached, and Daly stayed sharp by playing abroad (England, Spain) and with high-level domestic clubs in the Minnesota Valkyries, Glendale and San Diego. Daley, the World Cup captain, and Daly both traveled to France to represent the USA, marking a massive achievement in their rugby careers and lives.
Daly against Kazakhstan, 2014 / Photo: KLC fotos
But the World Cup also marked a shift in Daly’s rugby path. Having sustained a spinal injury, Daly prioritized recovery and today takes great pride in the health and athleticism she’s maintained since lumbar fusion surgery. Energies funneled into coaching, and by the time the Director of Operations post surfaced, Daly had spent time with Minnesota Youth Rugby, City of Glendale Youth Rugby, Atavus (then Serevi), University of Colorado, UC San Diego and San Diego Surfers’ DII team.
“I tend to be very selective of any rugby events I take part in,” Daly described playing opportunities. “Last summer I did play for a social 7s team, which was fondly named the San Diego Boogie Boarders. It was the most fun I have had playing rugby in a long time because the team was made up of some of my closest friends, who are also very accomplished domestic and international players.”
During this time, Daly also launched Aspire Rugby, which provides coaching resources, guidance, gear and more to improvement-minded athletes. Growing that business has allowed Daly to be both creative and strategic in the same space – attractive attributes for a Director of Operations. The venture lends depth to an already diverse rugby resume, and Penn State agreed, hiring Daly for an August 2018 start.
“The past several months I have worked closely with both the men’s and women’s teams to gain an understanding of their needs,” Daly summarized. “Both teams will be pretty focused on recruiting efforts this spring. Not only are we looking for skilled rugby players but well rounded individuals who share the program’s values.
“Penn State Rugby has an incredible legacy [and] the opportunity to work with a loyal and supportive community is very special,” Daly noted the appealing aspects of the position. “Both coaches – Justin Hundley and Kate Daley – are very dedicated and I continue to learn a great deal from working with them.”
Daly is also serving as an assistant coach to the Penn State men and skills coach to the Penn State women.
“I can’t imagine my life had I never found rugby. The sport has given me the best experiences of my life and I have looked to be involved however I can,” Daly concluded.