World Rugby has recognized the former Black Fern Vania Wolfgramm as she is helping to unearth and up-skill the next generation of female coaches, match officials and administrators through the Ako Wāhine Educator course.
In October, 16 women enrolled on the first Ako Wāhine Educator course. Earlier this month those participants were invited on a reconnection retreat that was also attended by World Rugby General Manager Women’s Rugby, Katie Sadleir, and Rugby World Cup 2021 Tournament Director, Michelle Hooper.
Plans are already in place to roll out the program further, with three regional Ako Wāhine courses set to coincide with this year’s Farah Palmer Cup.
“We’ve taken that same concept and moulded it and made it real specific for women,” Wolfgramm told World Rugby.
“For me, it needed to be broader than just coaches. I’ve been in courses that are very specific to coaches and in the women’s game I believe we really need to grow those opportunities but [also] the capability of our women in those current roles, of which we don’t have many.
“So, if we look at the coaches and then it’s administrators, managers and referees. So, we went to a specific, wider and broader realm and we also invited a few other people from other codes.
“I think if we take a step back, the thinking is if we manage to open the door to women and they come through, and those environments are set up for them, they can relate to the presenters and they know it’s specifically for them.
“Then, we get them through the door, [and] we would be able to provide them with some ups-killing education around those roles.”
Of the 16 women who began the Ako Wāhine Rugby Educator course in October, three have already made strides towards careers in administration, with one being appointed to the North Harbour Rugby board.
Wolfgramm points, too, to the success of participants who used the course to build their confidence, overcoming nerves and anxiety to get to a point where they now feel comfortable enough to present.
“We had [former Waikato Women head coach] Wayne Maxwell,” Wolfgramm said. “His role was to give feedback and his feedback, again, just reconfirmed that growth.
“He mentioned a couple of the women that were on the program that, in October, we couldn’t actually ask them to present… we couldn’t get them to ask questions or it was quite difficult.
“Six months later their review and their questioning were just top-notch and some of the presenters had gone from [being] a little bit, I suppose, timid to just, we had some magnificent presenters.”