Sara hunting an EIRA player at 2023 Nationals.
Many moons ago, Dean took his daughter Arianna to an open rugby practice. It was led by an amazing man, Quincy. He loved the sport and quickly embraced all of the ages he was training that night. Arianna came off the pitch and said, "Dad, this is the sport for me. I want to do this."
Well, not knowing much about rugby the answer was yes! Arianna played with a co-ed U12 and then U14 group and as she continued to age, Dean realized that she would age out at 14 and have no girls team to play with. Something had to be done.
So, Dean founded the Joan of Arc foundation dedicated to creating "opportunities for girls in traditionally male dominated contact sports," with a focus on rugby and the rest is history.
We have been seeking out Atlanta area girls and beyond to create playing opportunities for them wherever and whenever we can. We have embraced girls stay with their home clubs but also creating opportunities when their home club is not playing.
During the summer of 2019, we met Jenna Salyer. She was an East Cobb/Roswell alumni who achieved great success but typically as an individual seeking out rugby opportunities. However her hard work paid off and she was rewarded with a scholarship to Life University. When Jenna heard of Dean's efforts, she was the first to volunteer to step up.
It was quickly obvious that having young women coach and lead girls was the right model, Dean stepped back to support Jenna's work. Dean took on all administrative tasks while Jenna could focus on the coaching aspects. This is our model to this day of adults taking on administration and everything off of the pitch while the rugby is left to expert role models in an all female environment.
Jenna was quick to bring a strong feminine passion to the club. No more boy's hand-me down kits. No more boy cut clothes. No more second hand gear. She wanted the girls to come FIRST.
Expanding upon her experience as a youth player, Dean quickly went to work. A custom, female fitting kit was designed to meet our typical hot weather play and the physique of a girl. Female sizes. Female centric designs. Our work with our partner Love Rugby has gone so far he now calls our kit the "Valkyrie Cut."
In 2022-23 we made a shift to really expand our club, play opportunities, and outreach. We built a schedule of all of the regional tournaments we could find and the marque events across the nation. We developed an "Ecosystem Team" allowing girls from any club to gain visibility into our schedule and attend any event we were attending. We allowed younger girls, with the capability, to play up so they would not be left out. We opened practices to area girls to help them advance their skills and grow their home clubs. Our mission has been clear.
Now we continue this strategy of getting girls of all types to as many events as they would like to attend while meeting the needs of both social and competitive players. We now have a new area partner for field access and marketing support as well as some of the old, and cannot wait to meet our goal of a 30 girl club in 2024.
Looking for a new adventure? Never heard of rugby? Aging out of your co-ed club? Want to attend an event your club is not going to? Do you want to attach to a youth team while you train at home with the adult club? We have a path for you! Drop us an email at Info@ValkyriesRugby.com and learn more!
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