Anne Marice Sajorne is a Rugby coach from the Philippines. At only 23 she became a regional coach and established two new Rugby Clubs in her area.
Below, we asked Anne about her coaching journey and the culture of Rugby in her home country.
Can you tell us about the culture of Rugby in the Philippines; is it well watched and participated?
Rugby still remains widely unknown but it is relatively known within the rugby community. One good thing about rugby, really, is the fact the culture we have here is similar to other rugby clubs around the globe. I think sheer love and enjoyment of the game is the reason why we have regional clubs set up across the archipelago.
Different regions have tournaments set up all-year round so we do have enough clubs to get a tournament going in various regions.
Are there many women and girls that play Rugby?
Philippines have a National Women’s Team, called the Lady Volcanoes. It started in 2010, but what our National Team has achieved in such a short time is pretty impressive, we’re talking about players who have never even seen a rugby game, let alone, seen rugby ball, went on to represent our country in the 2015 SEA Games and brought home a medal.
Grassroots development is definitely growing. In Visayas, Cebu has an Annual International All Ladies Cebu 10s Rugby Festival which is a great opportunity for homegrown players to learn and build experience so we do have quite a few women and girls who play rugby.
Are their many female coaches involved with Rugby? If not, what is it that inspired you to become one?
Here in the Philippines, we do have female coaches, most of us are involved in the development of the game.
There are a lot of women who wants to take up sports but are never given an opportunity to pursue it so it’s just about creating venues for women and girls to have fun, play, and join in whatever sports or roles they want to partake in. In my case, there are a lot of untapped opportunities in sports so that’s pretty much the deciding factor for me.
Tell us about your journey in becoming a regional coach – at only 23 that is a big achievement?
Well, I am 24 now. I’m a sports enthusiasts and a rugby fan since I was 15 years old. I have never played it nor held a rugby ball but I became a fan from just watching a few games on TV. The game holds such a close resemblance to a lot of Filipino outdoor games. I knew right then and there I just wanted to give it a go but unfortunately, there aren’t any rugby in my country up until I found it 5 years after. From then on, I went to trainings, became a player, there was an opportunity to be a coach, I grabbed it. I honestly think, this is what happens when passionate sports fans are given opportunity to do what they do or simply, when there are opportunities for people to partake in.
What is involved with your role as regional coach?
As a regional coach, it is our duty to develop the game in our respective regions. It is our mission to have rugby be part of the mainstream sports program, for our schools and communities. Ultimately, our vision for the sport is to be played and embraced by Filipinos.
Philippines is a basketball nation and not everybody can be part of the 15-Team roster and there aren’t that much opportunities, especially, in other regions of the Philippines so it’s just really about creating more platforms for Filipinos to excel in.
The challenge was and still is; how do you promote a sport that is unknown and has misconceptions of being ‘brutal and dangerous’ for people who have never played contact sport.
The thing is, Rugby is a sport. It has fundamentals which all other sports have, so it isn’t different from any other sport. It’s similar in a lot of ways with sports like, Basketball, Football, Soccer, or any other sport that whoever scores more points wins. Both clubs, Bacolod and Iloilo, have strong youth attendance. It certainly helps clear up the idea that the ‘rugby is dangerous.’
Can you tell us more about each of your rugby clubs?
Bacolod Roosters RFC was established in 2014 and Iloilo Rugby Club started just last year. We have two coaches. Bacolod has three you teams, two boys team and one girls’ team. Iloilo on the other hand has one senior’s team, called Panay Pirates. Iloilo is yet to form a youth team while Bacolod on the other hand, is yet to form a senior’s team.
We make use of the public football field available to us so it gets real challenging as most of the fields are not well maintained but it highlights one of the good things about rugby is that you just need to make the numbers and a rugby ball to make it work.
Do you face any challenges being a female coach?
Challenges aren’t that different but there are a few instances that you tend to notice you are treated differently as opposed to how male coaches are treated. At one point, some do not even acknowledge you are the team coach but I’m not, at all, bothered by it. I mainly coach grassroots teams so it’s all about making it fun and safe for the youth so that’s my number one concern.
What are your coaching ambitions?
I’m such a huge fan of sports that, in my lifetime, I hope I get to see every girl looks up to their female sporting heroes with the same enthusiasm like how boys look up to their sporting legends. I would love that.