Sarah Chobot found rugby “by accident”, she says. The former USA Women’s Eagle was competing in heptathlon for the University of Central Michigan but was never going to make it to the Olympics.
“I just happened to watch rugby on TV and found where to play,” Chobot explained.
As her love grew, she moved in search of the best rugby she could play. Within a year, Chobot received her first junior national team call-up.
Her playing experience would come in handy in her future life as a coach, having started at flanker, before moving to centre, fly-half and ultimately loosehead prop, where she played test rugby.
“I loved it. All I wanted to do was play and I still want to some days,” she said smiling, from the city of Glendale, Colorado. Play rugby she did, including 32 caps, a couple of those as captain.
“With the passion I had, I never chose to leave but a knee replacement got the best of me.”
Rugby was already a virus she couldn’t get rid of, so it was natural that Chobot turned to coaching, thanks to some good friends, amongst them former men’s Eagle Luke Gross.
“I came out to help, just to keep busy and soon I was coaching many teams,” she said.
“Once I got my mind to coaching, it was great. I approach coaching similarly to when I was a player – you just dig it and get the job done.”
Interestingly, Chobot has only coached men’s teams. “I did help my women’s team but I’ve only coached men,” she said.
“Amazing” Raptors opportunity
We're proud to announce that Sarah Chobot has been named the next head coach of the American Raptors!— American Raptors (@AmericanRaptors) November 8, 2022
Chobot is one of the few female HCs of a men's professional sports team, and we are excited to see where she leads the program!
🎥: Patrick Guthrie#RaptorsRugby | #Mission23 pic.twitter.com/kwqoiyiyt3
Next month she will lead the American Raptors, the North American team that will compete in Super Rugby Americas, which kicks off on 18 February.
The sole team from north of the equator among the seven franchises, they will play home and away against the other six from South America.
The expanded Superliga Americana de Rugby of yesteryear will be stronger and continue to push the development of players and the game in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay and now the USA.
With the ultimate goal to grow Super Rugby Americas over the next few years, the inclusion of the American Raptors makes it a true Americas competition.
“Personally, I am really excited; so is the team, our staff, the city and community of Glendale,” Chobot said.
“For us, it is definitely a big deal, wonderful to have the support of the City of Glendale, and it is an amazing opportunity to be the only team to be competing in.”
With snow on the training field, her squad has already begun working hard and soon new imports will be joining the team to give them necessary experience.
Former Puma Leonardo Senatore will be her defence coach and in the continent’s most-capped international Diego Magno (103 caps for Uruguay), Martín Landajo (84 caps for Argentina) and Ramiro Moyano (two Rugby World Cups for Los Pumas), there will be sufficient rugby grey matter to help the Raptors.
“There are a number of crossover players from sports such as American football, baseball, wrestling. They all know what it means to be a professional and have very good ball and mental skills,” Chobot explained.
“Whilst they are young in rugby, they will be very interesting to see.
“We are a young and exciting team with a lot of potential; the goal is [to pair] a ton of international talent with exciting international veterans from all over the Americas that will promote the level of experience we are building towards.”
Imports will be important to the American Raptors.
“The folks with international experience will be of help and beneficial. They have a very special culture, playing very visual and enjoyable rugby, able to talk about the nuances, knowing the league. They will come handy,” says the only female coach in the competition.
The Raptors project was born during COVID-19 which, says Chobot, helped them, “because we had players from other sports”.
“Rugby was the only thing kind of going,” she said. “COVID helped us get off the ground; the game is so easy to fall in love with that players grew very quickly.”
Coming from high-level professional environments means that her players will “be good mentally and with high sporting IQs”.
The team will be ready by the time they travel to South America. The Raptors will play their first four matches on the road – flying to Santiago, Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Asunción.
Chobot and her players will then head home for the following six rounds, before finishing the 14-round tournament in Córdoba and Sao Paulo hopeful of finishing in the top four and making it to the semi-finals.
“Our staff has to do our job right, control the controllable,” Chobot said.
“Ours will be a very fit and athletic team as this will allow us to stay in games longer. It will be about keeping things simple.”
As a former elite player, who represented her country in Rugby World Cups, setting goals is big.
“We will get through the hard pre-season weeks, getting to know each other after a couple of weeks and start to name the mini groups and work on the core values and set the goals for the season. We haven’t got there yet as this is a new team.”
But she is very certain. “We will get there!”