Valley named Canadian senior women’s rugby team

Women’s rugby head coach to take charge of team’s defensive core

Dan Valley is returning for a second season at Queen’s.
Supplied by Queen's Athletics

After spending the past few years making contributions to the sport’s national landscape, women’s rugby head coach Dan Valley is once again reaping the rewards of his coaching success.

This spring, Valley—a second-year coach for the Gaels—was named an assistant coach to Canada’s senior women’s rugby team. His responsibilities will largely tend to the defensive side of the pitch.

Valley got his first look at the national program in May at Canada’s East Camp. The camp, which over 40 players from Ontario attended, was hosted by Queen’s and held in preparation for the national team’s coming European tour in November. Three Gaels—Janna Slivinsky, McKinley Hunt and Rachel Hickson—attended the camp.

Valley said Queen’s representation on the national stage lends credence to the program being a pathway to Canadian rugby.

"Not to say that it’s a forgone conclusion that coming into Queen’s will get you into the national program, but we certainly have got the right group of athletes to work with," Valley said. "The supports are here. If they want to go play for Canada, [Queen’s] is arguably the best place in the country for them to be."

Valley added it takes plenty of assistance to get players to compete nationally. He noted most athletes lean on pillars of support besides the national team, citing provinces, clubs and universities as supports for players.

"I would argue that the most important pillar is their universities," Valley said. "We have to cobble together this 12- month comprehensive training opportunity where they have a daily training environment that they can go to 365 days of the year."

Valley has worked with the Canadian women’s rugby program for six years at several different levels. He was first involved as the assistant coach of the women’s under-20 national program in 2013, and kick-started the under-18 national program in 2015.

"It was a lot of fun and it was a big reason why I ended up getting this position," Valley said about his experiences launching Canada’s under-18 program. "But it had come to a close and it was time for somebody to move that program forward." He further noted he wanted to make Queen’s his top priority.

In his first season at Queen’s, Valley led the Gaels to a silver OUA medal and a fifth place finish at the U Sports Championships.

And he’s hoping to continue that in the coming year.

With a class of 11 recruits, Valley is hoping to continue his program’s development as one of the most competitive in the country.

"The cycle is never about peaks and valleys, it’s about reloading every year, as opposed to having to rebuild every four years," Valley said.

Despite no first-place finishes last season, Valley remains optimistic about what his team can accomplish.

"We could have won an OUA championship and we didn’t, and this year we run a very similar boat," he said. "I think we’re coming in with the expectation of going in, competing and winning an OUA championship, and being very competitive at U Sports."

"The way our program is tracking, we will get to the top—and then work our butts off to stay there."

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