from Atlantis Rugby:

Emil Signes | RugbyEmil Signes began coaching rugby over 40 years ago, beginning in August 1974, with the newly formed Bethlehem Hooligans RFC. In that period he has coached club, college and high school rugby, men and women, boys and girls, 15s and 7s. He has coached at the LAU (local area union), territorial, and international levels.

Between 7s and 15s, men and women, club and All-Star, his teams have won 14 national championships.

He has coached the US national women’s team in both 15s and 7s and the US national men’s 7s team.  The US men won the Hong Kong Plate Championship and made the Cup round once; the US women were 4-time runners-up to New Zealand at the Hong Kong Sevens.  In addition he has coached or consulted for national teams from other countries.

He founded Atlantis US Sevens Rugby in 1986.  Between 1986 and mid-2014 Atlantis – men, women, boys, girls – has fielded 206 squads at 145 tournaments in 31 different countries. In their spring 2014 efforts, Atlantis Women won the Madrid Sevens (Spain) and the Atlantis High School Boys won the Surfside Sevens (NJ).

He has championed, helped to inaugurate, and developed, international women’s sevens.  Through these efforts he has been credited with being an integral part of setting the stage for rugby’s entry into the Olympics.

Emil has coached more than 25 players that became US national level coaches as well as several that became coaches of other national teams.

Besides his coaching achievements, Emil has been US Men’s National Sevens Team Manager and was a member of the USA Rugby Board of Directors. He was the chair of a newly formed USA Rugby Sevens Committee from 1988 until approximately 1995.


MEN, 15S

Emil Signes began his coaching career in 1974 as coach to the newly created Bethlehem Hooligans RFC (PA). He coached the Hooligans from 1974 to 1984 and then the newly combined Bethlehem Rugby Club from 1984 until 1992.  They won the EPRU (Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union) championship (15s) in 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1990.  They won the Mid Atlantic championship and made the USA Rugby Round of 16 in 1981 (East Final 4). They won 17 consecutive games in 1989-90 (12-0 Spring 1990).

He was the Backs Coach (assistant to George Betzler) for the Philadelphia-Whitemarsh RFC from 1997 to 1999; in 1999 they were Super League Quarterfinalists.

He coached Lafayette College in its inaugural year (1975) and he helped coach Lehigh University on a couple of occasions in the 1980s.

He was Assistant Coach to North Penn High School in 1994.


Emil’s first experience coaching sevens was with the Bethlehem Hooligans in 1977. The following year the team became only the second US team ever to win the prestigious Ontario Sevens. The Hooligans and their successor, the Bethlehem Rugby Club, won dozens of tournament championships.  Bethlehem came in 3rd in the first-ever USA Rugby Sevens National Club championship in 1985 and finished 5th in 1987.

In 1993 he coached Old Blue (NY) during part of its national championship sevens season.

He coached the Philadelphia-Whitemarsh Sevens team from 1996 to 2001; they reached the USA Rugby Final 8 from 1997 to 2001 and won the USA Rugby National Club Sevens Championship in 1999.

From 2006 to 2009 he assisted Joe Morrison coaching the Lehigh Valley (2006-07) and Schuylkill River (2008-09) clubs.  Lehigh Valley reached the USA Rugby National Championship (final 16 clubs) in 2006-07, as did Schuylkill River in 2009.

From 2010 to 2013 – with the title of “Guru Coach” he worked with Head Coach Chris Kron to help lead the University of Arizona men to at least the quarterfinals every year at the Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) in Columbus and Philadelphia. They reached the semifinals and the national championship game once each.

In 2013 he assisted Dan Benedict with the Lafayette College Men’s Sevens team.  Lafayette qualified for USA Rugby’s D2/Small Colleges National 7s where it finished 4th in this national championship.


From the time the Maulie Maguires WRFC of Bethlehem (later Lehigh Valley), was founded in 1976, Emil has been an occasional unofficial technical adviser and guest coach.

For 9 ½ years, from 2004 until 2013, he was Head Coach of the Princeton University Women’s team.  The team was Ivy Champions in 2005 and 2013, in the US Round of 16 five times, in the Final Four twice, and made it all the way to the USA Rugby national final in 2004.

From 2013 to present he has assisted current Princeton Head Coach Chris Ryan as Coaching Consultant.


From 1983 until 1995 Emil served as the coach to the Maulie Maguires (PA), who won many sevens tournaments.  In 1993 they came in second in the ERU (Eastern Rugby Union) championship, and thus earned a berth as one of the 8 teams in the national tournament.
He coached Princeton U. Women Sevens from their first sevens venture in 2011 through 2013. They were 3rd in the USA in 2011 and 2012 and won the Ivy League championship in 2012 and 2013. He was Coaching Consultant to Chris Ryan in 2013-14.


MEN, 15S

From 1977 to 1982 Emil was Assistant Coach – to George Betzler – of the EPRU (Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union) All Stars.

From 1982 to 1987 he was Head Coach of the EPRU.

From 1985 to 1989 he was the Head Coach of the ERU (Eastern Rugby Union, Maine to Louisiana) U-23. Twice national finalists.

In 1986 he was an assistant to Head Coach Clarence Culpepper and Backs’ Coach Al Little on the ERU senior team’s tour of Scotland.


From 1984 to 1995 Emil was the Coach of the ERU Sevens.  The ERU won 8 of the 12 national championships held in this time period.

From 1996 to 1999 he was Head Coach of the [US] Collegiate All Stars, the only collegiate team in the National All Star Sevens, competing against 7 senior All-Star teams.  In 1998 the Collegiate All Stars won the National All-Star Sevens championship.


From 1990 to 1995 Emil, as assistant to Joe Kelly, was Backs’ Coach of the ERU Women’s 15s. The women won four championships out of six in that time period.


From 2001 to 2006 Emil coached the USA U-23 team, the only U-23 team in the All Star Sevens, competing against 7 senior All-Star teams.  They were finalists in 2002.



From 1987 to 1990 Emil was US Men’s National Sevens Team Head Coach.  In that time period they had a winning record, and were in the top 8 (Cup Round) in the Hong Kong Sevens in 1987 and won the Hong Kong Plate Championship in 1988.

He managed the USA Men’s National Sevens Team from 1991 to 1993, including at the first-ever Rugby World Cup Sevens in Edinburgh.

Following several years coaching the US Women’s National Sevens Team, he returned to the US Men’s National Sevens Team, coached by Al Caravelli, and was Video Analyst for the team between 2007 and 2009.


Germany:  1992. He was the German National Sevens Coach in 1992; he coached Germany at the World Cup Qualifier in Sicily.

Portugal:  1996. Coaching consultant. He ran national team practices in Portugal in preparation for the 1997 World Cup Sevens Qualifier.  Portugal qualified.

Trinidad & Tobago:  2000, 2004. Coaching Consultant.  He ran national team practices in T&T in preparation for the 2001 World Cup Sevens Qualifier in Chile and the 2004 World Series Sevens tournament in Los Angeles.


1991-93 and 1999.  Backs’ Coach, USA Women’s National Team (Assistant to George Henderson [1991-93] and Joe Kelly [1999]). Undefeated in its two test matches.


1996-2005. Coach, USA Women’s National Sevens Team (2nd to New Zealand 4 times at Hong Kong Sevens). The US women also competed internationally in New Zealand and Japan and had an overall record of 57-19-4 during this time period.


Emil has coached more than 25 players that became head or assistant coaches either of one of the US national teams or of national age/grade programs. In addition he has coached several players that went on to coach other nation’s national team or age / grade teams. The list of national coaches Emil has coached is given in Appendix 1 to this report.


Alex Goff published a Rugby Magazine article back in October 2009, “Why Should we Thank This Man for Rugby Getting in the Olympics,” in which he stated “Rugby would not be an Olympic sport without the women, and women would not have an international 7s presence were it not for one man – Emil Signes.”

A path, in fact, can be traced from Emil Signes’ Atlantis men’s trip to the 1995 Dubai Sevens, to the Hong Kong Women’s Club Sevens in 1996 to the Hong Kong International Women’s Sevens in 1997 to a 1999 Hong Kong Sevens with the women final integrated with the men’s event, to the first Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2009 to the IOC’s selection of rugby as an Olympic Sport. For details and documentation, seehttp://www.emilito.org/rugby/olympicsandme/index.html.  For a very brief summary without documentation see Appendix 2 to this report.


One of Emil’s biggest achievements was the creation and development of the invitational sevens side Atlantis. A brief summary plus a list of some interesting Atlantis facts follow.

Emil founded Atlantis in 1986 as one of the tools to help him develop players for his high-level coaching appointments. He was Eastern Rugby Union coach when he founded the team (thus Atlantis was originally short for “Atlantic 7s”). When he was named US [Men’s*] National Sevens Team Head Coach later in 1986 he removed all references to the Atlantic, as Atlantis became a nationwide project. [* “Men’s” wasn’t in the title:  there was no women’s national sevens team for 10 more years]

As of August 2014, Atlantis has fielded 206 squads in 145 tournaments in 31 different countries.  Beginning with its first official tournament in 1986, Atlantis has played 1042 games, with a 723-308-11 record (men 392-231-7, women 331-77-4).

The Atlantis women’s team first played in 1992. This team, comprised mostly of US international players, defeated the Saracens of London, composed mostly of England international players in an exciting final.


Country (year first played,number of tournaments)
USA (1986, 56)
England (1987, 2)
Scotland (1987, 9)
Spain (1988, 17)
New Zealand (1990, 2)
Ireland (1992, 3)
No. Ireland (1993, 1)
Uruguay (1995, 2)
Bulgaria (1995, 1)
UAE (1995, 1)
Trinidad & Tobago (1995, 13)
Fiji (1996, 4)
Hong Kong (1996, 1)
Japan (1996, 1)
Australia (1997, 2)
Argentina (1997, 2)
Canada (1998, 6)
Netherlands (1999, 1)
Portugal (1999, 1)
Venezuela (2000, 1)
Cuba (2000, 4)
Cayman Islands (2001, 3)
Brazil (2002, 1)
Singapore (2002, 3)
Thailand (2005, 1)
Paraguay (2007, 1)
Malaysia (2008, 1)
Italy (2009, 2)
French Polynesia (2009, 2)
Mexico (2010, 1)
Laos (2013, 1)

To date, 1007 players – 621 men and 386 women – have represented Atlantis.  Of these, 202 (119 men and 83 women) have represented the US; 112 (60 men and 52 women) of these represented Atlantis prior to being selected to the US. With the 2014 advent of Atlantis boys and girls high school teams, Emil expects the number to increase as they get older and flourish.

The 1007 Atlantis players represent 42 states (all but HI, KY, MS, NV, NH, NM, SD and VT), plus DC and American Samoa.  Likewise (birth or residence) they represent 25 foreign countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, England, Fiji, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Paraguay, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, USSR, Wales, Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe.


Atlantis player number 1000 was Liam Boyle, son of Atlantis number 175, Biddy Boyle.  Liam represented the Atlantis HS Boys in July 2014, Biddy played for Atlantis for the first time in 1992.

Two other father-son combinations – Salty and Brett Thompson (numbers 53 and 910) and Keith and Connor Cassidy (84 and 958) have also represented Atlantis. At Surfside in 2014, HS Atlantean Jack McLean (1006) followed in the Atlantis footsteps of his Uncle Keith McLean (123), still the most “capped” Atlantean – together with John Flamish – with 19 tournaments.

13 sets of siblings have represented Atlantis, including two 3-brother combinations: Tom, Charlie and Jimmy Wilkinson (88, 128, 129) and David, Dennis and Ryan Peyroux (202, 243, 244).  The eight 2-brother pairs are

Stephen & Michael Siano (24, 58), Chris & Fritz Schrichte (52, 80),
Jon & Dan Campbell (265, 494), Jim & Matt Walier (279, 570),
Arona & Toshi Palamo (436, 437), John & Mike McGeachy (448, 472),
Peter & Tane Jeracevich (851, 852), Ryan & Jack Bradfield (957,1001).

Two sets of sisters – Hedwig and Kirsten Aerts (377, 662) and Amy and Ella Naber (942, 995) have played for Atlantis.

The only brother/sister Atlantis combination to date comprises Jake and Tess Feury (932, 971).

Several pairs of married couples have played for Atlantis, but Emil knows some are no longer together, and he would rather not try to list them all.

Of the 145 tournaments in which Atlantis has participated, 86 were men only, 41 were women only, and 18 were co-ed. 12 of these co-ed ventures were out of the country, with 8 to Trinidad and Tobago (7 to Trinidad, 1 to Tobago), and one each to Canada, Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico.

In the majority of cases Atlantis takes only one side to tournaments, but there have been many cases of multiple sides, the largest number being 5, at the 2014 Las Vegas Sevens: 2 men’s teams, 1 women’s team, 1 boys’ and 1 girls’ U-19 teams.


Emil’s favorite accomplishment has been enhancing the mutual appreciation of men and women rugby players for the other’s dedication, skills, achievements, and love of the game.  He helped organize the first Atlantis women’s tour – to Spain in 1992 – to coincide with the US Men’s National Sevens Team participation in the same tournament; he went as both US manager and the Atlantis women’s coach with the blessing of the US Men’s coach Steve Finkel.

A second co-ed tour was to the Ontario Sevens in 1998 with the situation reversed: a US Women’s National Sevens Team participated, as did an Atlantis Collegiate Men’s team.  Emil asked former Atlantis player Mary Beth Spirk to coach with him.  Mary Beth was then and is now – with more than 500 wins at Moravian College – one of the top basketball coaches in the country. Emil coached the women and Mary Beth coached the men.  In addition, the women – who included future National Coach Jules McCoy – acted as solicitous big sisters to the young men.

Building on these great experiences, Emil began organizing co-ed Atlantis tours in 1999. In each case initial mistrust was replaced with both sexes supporting each other throughout the event and becoming friends.

In particular Trinidad and Tobago was, and continues to be, a regular venue for both men’s and women’s Atlantis teams to participate.  Other destinations were added as it made sense to do so.

Emil’s work on getting the men and women of rugby to work together is also referenced in the article linked to above, viz. http://www.emilito.org/rugby/olympicsandme/index.html

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