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Improved Culture Leads to Wins for GCU Women’s Rugby

July 7, 2020

By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff

Photo Credit: Jeff Dalton

When you ask Lindsey Mahoney which area of the program she’s most proud of, the answer comes without much hesitation.

“Culture,” Mahoney said simply. “It was the biggest ‘win’ of our season this year.”

In her first year as head coach of the Grand Canyon University Women’s Rugby team, Mahoney spent just as much time integrating a new culture and attitude into the program as she did teaching technique and the ‘X’s and O’s’ of the game.

That new culture was a big reason GCU was able to post a solid 5-2-1 record in the 2019-20 season despite playing with just 17 players on the roster – six less than the number allowed by the Pacific Desert Rugby Conference.

“We were playing shorthanded for most of the season,” Mahoney explained. “If we didn’t have the new culture in place, and if we didn’t have every girl on the roster buying in, there’s no way we would have won as many games as we did. The girls showed so much fight and resiliency this year.”

Although Mahoney spearheaded the push for a new culture, the effort was largely player-driven.

In their first meeting of the year, new and returning players worked together to build a blueprint and define the team’s core values. The players ultimately decided to build a family-like culture that included key features like love, accountability, commitment and patience.

“It was all about creating a family dynamic throughout the program,” Mahoney said. “The players came up with some great goals and values. Implementing the culture was probably the hardest part. It definitely didn’t come easily, but the girls trusted in the process and were patient with it. By the end of the season, we really became a family.”

Mahoney, who played her collegiate rugby at Arizona State University, helped guide the process using her own extensive playing history.

After graduating from ASU, Mahoney went on to play with the Stars Rugby 7s – an elite amateur travel program led by top coaches from the Unites States, Australia and New Zealand. She later suited up for the Tempe Women’s 7s and 15s before finishing out her playing career in Ireland in 2018-19.

“I’ve been lucky enough to play for a lot of different coaches and teams, so I’ve been able to see what works and what doesn’t,” Mahoney said. “I tried to use those experiences to help guide the process, but ultimately it comes down to the players. We had so many girls step up and take ownership of the culture.

“I wasn’t hired here until August (of 2019), which was only a few months before we started playing games,” she continued. “I didn’t really have a chance to recruit, so many of the new players weren’t just new to the team – they were new to the sport. The culture we established allowed us to really gel as a team and program.”

Interested in joining GCU Women’s Rugby? Contact Coach Mahoney to learn more!