Three-time Women’s Rugby World Cup star Julia Sugawara will take the reins of the Trinity Western women’s rugby sevens program, as she has been named the Spartans women’s rugby head coach.
With women’s rugby set to join Spartan Athletics this fall, Sugawara, who featured for Canada in the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2006, 2010 and 2014, comes to TWU with an impressive pedigree as both a player and a coach.
Sugawara, who is a TWU alumnus (’08), played for Canada for 10 years, from 2004 to 2014, earning 46 caps. Along the way, she played her club rugby with both the Burnaby Lake Rugby Club, from 2001 to 2015, and with Saracens Women in London, from 2008 to 2009.
As a coach, Sugawara most recently has been an assistant coach with the Burnaby Lake Rugby Club’s Premier Women’s team since 2016. She also has age-grade coaching experience at the provincial level, having been the head coach of BC’s U16 Girls 7s side in 2016 and an assistant coach with BC’s U17 Girls team in 2018.
“Aside from Julia’s extensive coaching and playing background, she is an inspirational leader who will provide incredible leadership to our Spartans women’s program,” said TWU’s Director of Rugby Andy Evans. “She will set a solid foundation for the future of our program and all of the women who are involved in our program will have such a special person to learn from as they strive to become the best versions of themselves. She has incredible faith and character, and her work ethic is phenomenal. We’re so excited that Julia she is joining Spartan Athletics.”
Internationally, Sugawara’s World Cup experience included a best-ever silver medal-winning performance for Canada in 2014. Individually, she made herself known on the world stage in 2006 in Edmonton, scoring Canada’s lone try in a World Cup match against rugby power New Zealand.
“I’m grateful to Andy Evans and the Spartans Athletic department for this opportunity,” Sugawara said. “I feel fortunate to be a part of shaping the foundation of the women’s rugby program, especially as it focuses on refining more than just the athletic attributes of the players. I’m looking forward to working alongside a group of student-athletes who are excited about developing themselves on and off the field. The physical and mental challenges of collegiate rugby present an environment which reveals and shapes what athletes are capable of as individuals and as a team and I am excited to play a part in my players’ journeys.”
Sugawara has a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from Simon Fraser University (’05), a Masters of Applied Linguistics and Exegesis from TWU (ACTS Seminaries) and is in the process of completing a Bachelor of Education from SFU.
“Having somebody with a TWU education and who understands what our university is about – developing godly leaders for the global marketplace – is vital to our rugby program,” Evans said. “We want to be the best rugby program, but we also want to serve the world and Julia’s background at TWU will help us embrace that mission.”
The women’s program is still considering athletes for recruitment for the upcoming season.
The Spartans women’s program will operate a sevens team starting this fall with potential to expand to include a 15s team in the future.