Tomasi Waqa is inspiring America to fall in love with rugby every day. He is the coach of the BYU Women’s Rugby team, the coach of the Humless Men’s Rugby Club, a U-20 NASC Selector and between the three he balances a family life with two children, his duties as President of the Utah Fiji association, and an active member of the LDS Church.
Whether it be on the pitch or not, Tomasi Waqa’s life is dedicated to helping others and because of this selflessness, coupled with coaching excellence, he has been chosen as the USOC Volunteer Coach of the Year for Rugby.
Christine Bolger, Manager of Coaching Education at the USOC, outlined the Coach of the Year Program as a means to help develop coaching and bring the positive influence that coaches have to attention. “The goals of the USOC Coach of the Year Program are to elevate the status of coaching as a profession and to recognize coaches who prepare our athletes for performance at every level of sport.”
Waqa came to the United States from Fiji when he was 19 years old and with him he brought a great knowledge and enthusiasm for rugby. This knowledge helped him take over the head coaching position at the BYU Women’s Rugby Club in 2004.
Over the past seven seasons the BYU Women’s Rugby Club has become a national power and in recent years have produced multiple All-Americans; Kristi Jackson, Monica Jackson, and Rebekah Siebach are just three from the 2011 team. With such high standards set, one would think that Waqa is extremely exclusive when selecting his players. But this is not the case at all.
“Tom adamantly demands that we keep the team open for anyone. Tom has never, ever cut anyone,” said one of his players in her nomination testament, “Even if the girl progresses slowly or shows no real potential he recognizes her love for the team and lets her stick around to be a part of that.”
This synergy that Waqa fosters has led many young women to fall in love with rugby. Each semester the club welcomes in roughly 20 new members, where in the past they would struggle to field a team of 15 for a full season. In turn, these girls have spread rugby to countless friends, family, and have inspired new players with their passion. Currently the team has over 20 certified Rookie Rugby coaches, further spreading the enthusiasm Waqa has inspired.
Waqa’s influence begins on the field and carries over into the everyday lives of those he has coached. Two-time All-American, Kirsten Siebach, played under Waqa for four years and feels that his impact resonates throughout his players’ lives. “Tom influences the lives of those he coaches and produces not just good rugby players, but good people. He does this through example– no one works harder and gives more.”
Bolger stated, “This award serves as a testament to Waqa’s dedication to the Olympic ideals and recognizes his excellence in coaching.” In receiving the award, Waqa’s nomination was assessed against other nominations on the basis of his coaching excellence, the performance of his athletes, and the knowledge, experience, and attitude he brings to the field of play.
Tomasi Waqa exudes the ideals of the USOC, USA Rugby, and those of a great human being. His inspiration to his players and ongoing dedication to others has allowed Waqa to grow the game of rugby in his community to a higher standard than ever and will continue to inspire America to fall in love with rugby.