Dan Valley making most of first season at the helm

Newly hired women’s rugby head coach leading team into OUA semi-finals

Women’s rugby head coach Dan Valley.
Women’s rugby head coach Dan Valley.

While spearheading a university rugby team may be a first for Dan Valley, he hasn’t shown any signs of growing pains. 

After leading the women’s rugby team to a 3-2 regular season record, Valley and his team await an OUA semi-final showdown with McMaster this coming weekend. The lead-up to this moment, however, has been a lengthy one for one of Queen’s newest coaches.

Valley’s first entry into coaching came by total fluke at a young age. 

After being sidelined for the season with an injury during high school, Valley created and coached the women’s rugby team at Oakville Trafalgar High School. 

Quickly, Valley found a love for coaching that hasn’t died since. The development of the program was his focus all the way until May 2017, when the team won OFSAA. At the same time, a job offer from Queen’s came in the mail.

“That afforded me the opportunity to develop the program that I had started as a teenager with good intentions but no clue where it was going to lead me…that was the catalyst for all the really cool coaching experiences I’ve been able to have,” Valley said.

As his career has progressed, Valley has had a slew of coaching opportunities at the national level. In 2013 he was named the assistant coach of Canada’s women’s U20 squad and in 2015 was appointed head coach of the national U18 program. Valley also spent some time in Hamilton as McMaster’s assistant women’s rugby coach, coincidentally defeating Queen’s in the 2015 national championships.

In recent years, the prospect of making a career out of coaching has become a clear goal for Valley. During his time at Oakville Trafalgar as a teacher, Valley was able to clearly define his future aspirations. In the end, the classroom wasn’t where his heart was.

“I knew I wanted to get a job where I could show up and coach for a living. I loved teaching, it was awesome…but I never really saw myself teaching for the rest of my career,” Valley said. “I was very happy when Queen’s made the decision they did.”

With the hire, Valley is just one of three full-time women’s university rugby coaches in Canada.

Upon his arrival to Queen’s, Valley has been through a lengthy learning process to figuring out the team’s style both on and off the pitch.

“The early days were spent finding out what the reality was from the inside,” Valley said. “That allowed me to shape the direction we needed to go and the path that we’ve started down.”

Once this was done, Valley was able to implement the type of culture and work ethic he envisioned.

“I’m very happy with the results we’ve had on pitch, sure, but more so the day today, the daily training and the quality of those sessions. I’ve been really happy with the mindset we’ve been able to adopt and stick with,” Valley said.

Valley has also found inspiration through professional sports. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ transition from a bottom feeder to competitor has been a source of curiosity for the women’s rugby coach since he acquired a Gaels team that he knew little about.

“How do [these teams] tick? How do they operate? What does that look like…how do we take all these things that are happening and in this context, what can we glean from that that’s going to make Queen’s better?” Valley said.

Following a 109-0 victory against Trent University this past weekend in the OUA quarterfinals, Valley isn’t short on confidence.

“We’re in a good spot and I’m happy with what we’ve been able to achieve so far and I just want us to go into Hamilton and be difficult to play against. I think we can be on the right side of that result,” Valley said.


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