Topics: Business, Touch Rugby

Māori coaches lead USA to touch World Cup

By Moana Makapelu Lee

Three Māori coaches have been selected to coach USA touch teams preparing for the 2019 Touch World Cup in Malaysia. Gary Harding, Tristan Mana and OJ Hawea are three of the eight coaches selected. USA Touch President Hawea is confident they have the right coaching team needed to build America's touch game. 

The USA is one of the greatest sporting countries in the world. But when it comes to touch, these Māori coaches are the ones leading the charge.  

USA Touch President, OJ Hawea says, "Really there was no one else doing it at the time. I started up going to a Nationals in 2008 when my wife's cousin moved to Arizona and he played for the US. We took two teams down to Houston texas to compete in Nationals and ever since then we've been involved in playing or administrating the game here." 

Since then, Hawea says what was only 300 players has expanded to a strong 1700 across the country. With little to no financial support for the sport, they've been utilising social media to help build an online presence.

Hawea says, "We see a lot of basketball players translate over. Footwork skills actually translate really well so we see a lot of those, at the same time where ever people we can find people who are interested are the ones who come out and play."

The Kahungunu and Ngāti Koata says the game has fostered connections amongst kiwi communities in the US. 

Hawea says, "It feels a little bit like home, you know the whānau concept of being around each other, working together and building the game. I've got cousins playing from all over the country so it's pretty cool." 

Hawea's mission will be preparing eight teams to make a mark at the 2019 Touch World Cup in Malaysia. He believes he has the best coaching team to lift USA's competition standards.