Kathy Flores, legendary Fil-Am coach of U.S. women’s rugby dies at 66
Kathleen “Kathy” Flores, 66, the legendary women’s rugby player, coach and leader of the sport in the U.S. for more than 40 years, has died of colon cancer at home in Providence Rhode Island on Oct. 21.
Flores was with the U.S. women’s national rugby team when it won the first women’s rugby World Cup against England 30 years ago. She later became the first woman, and first woman of color (she was of Filipino and Hawaiian descent), to coach a national rugby team, leading the U.S. women’s team from 2003 to 2010.
Nearly 300 former teammates, fellow coaches, former players and friends gathered recently for a virtual memorial organized by the U.S. Women’s Rugby Foundation.
Flores played and coached on numerous teams, including the USA Women’s National team [the Eagles], Berkeley All Blues, San Francisco Fog [the Mark Bingham-inspired SF gay men’s’rugby club], Bay Area Touring Side, University of San Francisco Women’s, Cal Berkeley Women’s, and Pacific Coast Grizzlies, amongst others.
In 2013, she left the Bay Area after accepting the head coach position at Brown University in Providence, R.I . This opportunity was groundbreaking because Brown Women’s Rugby would play at the NCAA Division I Varsity level, a first for the university. Her tenure at Brown, where she coached until her death, was the realization of her “dream job.”
Flores had extraordinary collegiate and USA National team coaching successes, and won many individual awards, including induction into the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame as an individual in 2016 and as a member of the USA 1991 Women’s Rugby World Cup Championship team in 2017.
She is known and loved world-wide as a pioneer and legend in the game of women’s rugby. Her visibility in the sport as a woman of Hawaiian and Filipino descent was a beacon to other players of color, former All Blues player Deb Watford said.
Born in Philadelphia on Feb. 7, 1955, Flores attended high school in New Jersey and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Stroudsburg University. She started a master’s in Exercise Physiology at Florida State University, where she began playing rugby, according to an obituary.
Kathy Flores was preceded in death by her mother Catharine (nee Miles) and father Joseph Flores.