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Utah Warriors Announce Pathway Staff & Community Coaches

(Courtesy of Utah Warriors)

HERRIMAN, Utah – The Utah Warriors confirmed the expansion of their community and Pathway coaching staff as part of their continued efforts to develop and support the local rugby community from the youth to the semi-professional levels.

“We have appointed very capable coaches that possess all of the values that are represented in our four-stripes and can help us accomplish our goal of being the center of rugby in North America,” Utah Warriors Director of Rugby Brandon Sparks said, “Each of them has earned this opportunity to develop their skill set, develop great rugby players and people, and work in the community. The word ‘excited’ isn’t strong enough to express the feeling I have in anticipation of what this group can accomplish.”

Headlining these staff additions is current Warriors prop Olive Kilifi, who will head up the Utah Selects, the Warriors minor-league development team that plays during the Fall. Kilifi, an active club rugby coach and player over the course of his career in Seattle, WA with the Seattle Saracens, is well-versed in recruiting and developing domestic and cross-over talent.

“There is a rich rugby history, tradition, and talent here in Utah that has contributed to programs throughout the country and on the National Team,” Kilifi said, ”The Utah Selects program gives us the chance to honor those who have gone on before, but to also provide opportunities to the next generation of players on and off the field and to help build the local community that we represent through the sport of rugby. In the end, the Utah Selects goal is to give back to the community, but to also produce the best players in the country that can wear the Warriors’ four-stripes on game day.”

Assisting Olive Kilifi will be Vaha Esikia, a former USA Eagle and 2020 Selects Assistant Coach.

Overseeing the expansion of the Warriors Academy will be Shaun Davies, current assistant coach for the Warriors’ MLR-side.

Davies will serve as the Director of the Academy and will work with Derek Smith, former BYU All-American prop, former head coach of Herriman High School, and current assistant coach with the BYU Rugby program, who will serve as Warriors Academy head coach. Smith worked with the Utah Selects last season and will step into a more defined role with the Academy program by working with Utah’s local high school talent.

Working with Davies and Smith will be local high school product Ashlee Byrge, a former Herriman High School player and former USA Women’s National Team Member in both 7s and 15s. Byrge, who also works with the Warriors as a sideline and color commentator, will serve as an assistant coach in the high school Academy program.

“I’ve always felt like I was a ‘path paver’ for youth rugby in this state,” said Byrge, “I helped start the first-ever Herriman girls rugby team, I was on the first-ever Utah Girls All-Star team. I played in the first-ever High School Girls All-American game, and now almost a decade later I’m going to be coaching the first-ever Utah Warriors High School Academy competition team. I’m so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to continue to grow the game in my home state and work with these incredible athletes.”

Rounding out the Warriors’ Pathway program staff additions are a set of Warriors players who will serve as Community Coaches with the goal of working with local schools, clubs, businesses, and recreation programs to develop the game of rugby across the state.

These current players include Mikey Te’o, Paul Mullen, Aston Fortuin, and Michael Baska. Each of these players will be available to work with Utah Youth Rugby (UYR) clubs and other community organizations to assist with players and coaching development resources.

“We are working to build a community-focused organization here in Utah,” Sparks went on to say, “As we continue to build, we are looking forward to identifying more coaches, players, and referees that can work in our Pathway and where they can continue their development and give back to our amazing community”

For more information and to request a session or series of sessions with the Warriors Community Coaches please visit: www.WarriorsRugby.com/Community-Coaches/.

As COVID-19 restrictions change the Warriors will announce upcoming 2021 plans for each respective Pathway program’s schedule, including the Jr. Warriors, Academy, and Selects.

UTAH WARRIORS 2021 PATHWAY STAFF

  • Olive Kilifi, Utah Selects Head Coach
  • Vaha Esikia, Utah Selects Asst. Coach
  • Shaun Davies, Warriors Academy Director
  • Derek Smith, Warriors Academy Head Coach
  • Ashlee Byrge, Warriors Academy Asst. Coach
  • Mikey Te’o, Community Coach
  • Aston Fortuin, Community Coach
  • Michael Baska, Community Coach
  • Paul Mullen, Community Coach

“RE-UNITED” FOR 2021 SEASON OPENER

The Pathway staff additions come on the heels of the Warriors’ announcing an expanded seating plan at Zions Bank Stadium in time for the 2021 Home Opener on March 27th. For more information on the “Re-Unite with Rugby” seating plan for the Warriors’ March 27th home opener, please visit www.WarriorsRugby.com/re-unite-with-rugby/.

For more information on season ticket options for the Utah Warriors 2021 MLR Season please visit www.WarriorsRugby.com or call the Warriors’ Box Office at 801-477-7652.

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