Rugby 7's Coach and CPA
Tell us about yourself
My name is An and I am a Vietnamese Canadian. My home country is Vietnam, however, I grew up in Calgary, AB. I graduated from the University of Calgary with a double degree in Political Science and Economics in 2008 and obtained my CMA in 2014. I also recently completed my MBA from the Australian Institute of Business. My interests include rugby, trail running, skiing, the arts and food.
What do you do?
I am a Chartered Accountant by trade, but mostly work in project and operations management. I also coach rugby, both at the club level and at the provincial level. Last year, I founded The Athlete Directive, as a way to satisfy both my creative outlet and to provide the type of resources I did not have as a young athlete growing up.
When and why did you become involved and interested in rugby?
I was interested in rugby at the tender age of 11, which is very young in Canada to be exposed to this sport. My elementary school did a 2 week introduction of sports outside the regular curriculum and rugby was one of those sports. They brought in a National level player and he taught us the basis of the game of rugby as well as basic ball handling skills. His enthusiasm made me want to know more about it, and a couple years later I found a club with a junior program to get started with. From there, I played in high school and went on to play varsity level and provincial rugby, and got into coaching in my mid 20s when I wanted a way to stay involved in the sport when I retired and as a way to give back to it.
How did you start the Vietnam Rugby 7's women's development team?
Rugby is a very new sport in Vietnam, only getting some exposure thanks to Child Fund Australia and Pass It Back less than 5 years ago. I threw out this idea with a few teammates, half joking and half serious, about starting a national women's sevens program. A friend of mine who play for the Philippines National 7's team had similar struggles when they did not have a union and got their start in a similar manner. This was 3 years ago that I had this idea, and after a full year of work and liaising with people from Pass It Back Asia and Asia Rugby, this dream is starting to become a reality. Once I got a formal invitation from Bangkok International Seven's, one of the oldest women's 7's competitions in Asia, I set out on recruitment of players who would want to be a part of the building foundation. Vietnam currently does not have a formal rugby union or federation but are really close to forming one thanks to the inclusion of rugby 7's back in the Olympics. My hope is us competing and having interest of players who are based at home, will help to act as a catalyst to help the union formation.
What is the purpose behind The Athlete Directive?
I started The Athlete Directive after years of thinking about what I would have needed as an athlete when growing up, and based on my experience working with high performance, age grade athletes. The purpose behind it to be able to provide a platform where there is resource and information sharing that is done in an interactive and relatable manner. There is the blog component where I primarily write articles and share resources. There is also our YouTube channel that I experimented with but am actively expanding for more content and next year, I'd like to finally launch the Podcast which will more more informational. The eventual long term goal of The Athlete Directive is to formulate a foundation which young athletes could apply to for a grant to help them compete. It breaks my heart seeing financial barriers being the one thing that prevents athletes from reaching their full potential and seeing their dreams come true.
Who are some women that inspire you in your life and work?
My biggest inspiration is the late Jenny Vincent. She was my coach when I was with the U of C Dinos and she was a pioneer in women's rugby in Canada. She was instrumental in a lot of "firsts" in this sport in Canada - she selected to the inaugural Canada Women's National 15's squad back in 1987, she was instrumental in rugby development in her home province of Quebec and started the varsity program at the University of Victoria. She gave so much to this sport and really believed in the potential development of every athlete she worked with. She is the main reason for my interest in continuing in rugby when my playing career ends and why I decided to follow the coaching pathway. Jen Ross is another woman who continues to inspire me daily, and when she selected as a part of her BC provincial coaching staff in 2014 when she knew nothing about me other than my name, I was incredibly honoured. Her belief in my abilities and potential to grow has helped to propel my rugby career to where it is today. Her work and dedication to the growth of this game and the development of women in it is not only inspiring but something I aspire to. She has been a wonderful mentor, friend, and coach and I continue to this day, learn so much from her.
What are you passionate about?
I have many passions, but rugby and the development of athletes is definitely up there. I've given more than 20 years of my life to this sport and continue to strive to be the best I can be. I work just as hard on my personal development as much as I can, because the more that I know and have willingness to learn, the better I can develop the athletes I work with to their best potential. I hope to not only develop them on a technical sense, but there are a ton of life lessons they learn from sport that I hope to be able to teach them.
What does confidence mean to you?
Confidence to me means having comfort in your own skin. Being able to commit to the decisions you make and pursuing the things you seek without letting others affect how you feel about it. It can take awhile to development one's own sense of confidence, but once you do, the sky is the limit.
What's the best advice you've received?
Best piece of advice I've ever received is do what makes you happy, whatever that may be.
Are there any specific challenges you've faced because you're a woman in sport? If so how did you overcome them?
There are a ton of challenges I've faced as a women in sport - I even wrote an article about it here. In sport that is typically male dominated like rugby, there is still an uphill battle that exists for women who work in it. There is still an abundance of misogynistic view points and a lot of the "old boys club" mentality which is hinderance on the development of the sport as a whole. Women are still viewed as only being capable of fulfilling auxiliary roles and not seen as knowledgable enough to do much else. The amount of times I've been talked over, male coaches re-explaining what I just went through, lost roles I was fully capable for due to my gender, is too many to list of count. It gets extremely frustrating and there are times I've wanted to throw in the towel and walk away because I know I am worth more than that. But I don't give up and I continue onward. The strong women and those men who fight against misogyny who came before me, helped to make the road less bumpy and fought hard for some of those barriers to come down for women like myself. I continue onward to do the same for the generation who come after me, and hopefully the work I do helps those barriers to come down just a bit more.
What is your advice for women and girls?
My advice is, don't give up! Don't ever base your worth on what someone else thinks it ought to be. If you do things with passion, you'll find your voice and find your way. The motto of my company is one I strive to live by everyday - do what you love, passionately.
Any stray thoughts?
The road may be hard but those hardships make you stronger, more resilient and more capable to take on whatever comes your way. Never let anyone determine your self worth.