NAME: Helen Wright
YEARS ACTIVE: 1999-2003
Founder and first head coach of the Pandas rugby team
Five-time CIS and Canada West champion
Five-time Canada West Coach of the Year
The founder and first head coach of the University of Alberta rugby program, Helen Wright led the Pandas to championships in all five years she coached the team.
Wright led the Pandas from 1999 to 2003, compiling a record of 36-1-1 over her tenure, with the team capturing both the Canada West and national title each season. Wright was also named Canada West coach of the year in all five seasons.
A pioneer in establishing women’s rugby as a provincial, national and international sport, Wright defied stereotypes at a time when the sport was dominated by men, leading by example as a player, coach and administrator. Rugby’s inclusiveness, related to both ability levels and physical diversity of players, was key in Wright’s commitment and advocacy for the sport.
Raised in Williams Lake, BC, Wright came to Edmonton to study psychology at the University of Alberta and began playing rugby after being introduced to the sport in 1977. She soon helped form the Coven women’s rugby team and went on to compete in the first Rugby Canada women’s national team game against the United States in Victoria in 1987.
Wright served as Managing Director of the Alberta Rugby Union from 1987 to 2001, and became the CIS Coaches Association President for 2003-04. She also served as Director of Rugby Canada’s National Women’s Team Programs and was part of the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup Organizing Committee in 2006 when Canada hosted the event for the first time it took place outside Europe. Wright coached Rugby Canada's U23 women's team in 2005 when they defeated the USA in two test matches.
She was inducted in the University of Alberta Sports Wall of Fame as a builder in 2014.