We’re excited to continue our new series, “Pioneers of the Pitch,” where we celebrate the groundbreaking athletes, administrators, coaches, referees and fans who’ve left their mark on rugby in the USA. Each installment takes you on a journey through the inspiring stories of rising stars and seasoned legends, both on and off the field. Join us as we shine a light on these exceptional individuals and uncover their tales of dedication, passion, and triumph.
Dr. Julia McCoy, hailing from Jonesboro, Arkansas, has left an indelible mark on rugby in the United States. Her invaluable contributions to both men’s and women’s rugby have not only earned her rightful induction into the 2023 US Rugby Hall of Fame but also previously recognized with an induction into the Texas Rugby Union Hall of Fame in 2018.
A trailblazer from her earliest days, McCoy earned the title of Female Intramural Athlete of the Year during her junior and senior seasons at Hendrix College. Her academic journey led her through medical school at the University of Arkansas, an internal medicine internship at the University of Memphis, to a Neurology Residency and Fellowship at Tulane, New Orleans.
McCoy’s rugby journey ignited in 1990 with the New Orleans Halfmoons Club, propelling the team to a nationally ranked third-place finish in her first season. Throughout her playing career, McCoy represented the Western Rugby Union in both 15s and 7s and was part of the Eagles 15s Player Pool and a US Eagles 7s player.
However, it was her coaching career where McCoy found the most rewarding. After coaching the Little Rock Women, the Western Rugby Union’s 15s and 7s sides, she expanded her expertise to the US National Team. McCoy played an instrumental role in the USA U23 Program and served as the head coach of the West U23 Team. She later became the head coach of the USA Women’s 7s team, leading them to win Dubai 7s, USA 7s, and the only USA Team to win Hong Kong 7s.
McCoy’s tenure led to a semifinal appearance in the 2009 Rugby World Cup 7s, a performance that is believed to have convinced the IOC to include Rugby 7s as an Olympic sport.
Post-retirement, McCoy served as a USA Rugby Board member for three years and founded the American Rugby Pro Training Center Women’s 7s Academy. Her unending commitment to development and growth in the sport has helped numerous athletes, such as 2016 Olympians Alev Kelter and Jessica Javelet, to emerge and shine on the global platform.
Dr. Julia McCoy’s dedication to the sport didn’t stop at coaching or playing; she has consistently been a significant part of fundraising campaigns for every program she led.
Today, McCoy’s passion for the game remains undimmed. Known for her unwavering dedication to nurturing young talents, her contributions to the USA Women’s 7s Program, and her relentless fight for equal opportunities, McCoy’s induction into the 2023 US Rugby Hall of Fame serves as a fitting recognition to an exceptional career in rugby.