Westshore RFC is very pleased to announce the great coaching team of Shannon Houston and Latoya Blackwood as Co-Head Coaches. Each brings a plethora of international experience and high performance game knowledge with their many individual milestones and achievements. Their team thus far is very focused and undefeated at 3-0, defeating CW 44-5, UBC 69-15 and Seattle 38-21 in the first 3 weeks of the 2nd half of the season. Their bios are listed below for fans to get to know each better.
Shannon Houston was born in Victoria in the 80’s and a graduate of Glen Lyon School in the late 90’s. She played for the Velox Valkyries from 1998-2001, before shifting to UVIC from 2001-2003 as she worked on her undergrad degree in Biology. During these years Shannon made the Crimson Tide and BC Provincial teams demonstrating her ability to play at the higher levels. She has duel citizen ship: both Canada and Irish due to her Grandparents from Cork Ireland. This assisted her move to Ireland in 2004 not just to retrace her family’s heritage, but to go to medical school to earn her medical degree from the University College in Dublin. Upon arriving in Ireland in 2004 she played for Blackrock RFC before joining Leinster RFC as her club where she played until 2013. Demonstrating she was very capable of international action Shannon debuted in 2006 for her 1st cap at Women’s World Cup 15’s for Ireland verses France, in Edmonton Canada. She continued on to earn 32 caps for Ireland playing 15’s from 2006-2013. In 2009 Shannon earned her Medical Degree and worked as a physician in Navan, Ireland. She balanced surgical rotations as an intern with 100+ hours a week, while training for the national Irish team, displaying her drive for both work and play. Once certified as a doctor, she would work in the clinic in mornings, and train in afternoons with national 7’s teams assisting Ireland’s Rio Olympics bid. During this time she participated in weight lifting competitions in Ireland while also competing on national teams for rugby. She spent the last 3 years from 2013-2016 playing 7’s for Irelands National team. An essential team member for the Irish 7’s winning Quarter finals in RWC 7’s in Moscow in Jun 2013, she continued as the Captain for the team during the Dubai 7’s as she continued over the next 2 years. Coming full circle, she finished her playing career on the Irish 7’s team at Canada 7’s World Rugby Women’s Sevens in Victoria in Apr 16 at 36 years old!!! She retired from the playing circuit due to a neck injury that prevented her from lacing up again. Shannon moved back to Victoria in the fall of 2016 to join her brother as GP Doctors taking over their Fathers family practice in Dec 16. She joined Westshore Velox RFC shortly thereafter and assisted with the women’s program as an assistant coach from Feb-May 2017. Shannon was also the Team Doctor for Canada’s NSWT for 2017 RWC in Ireland in Aug, her 2 homes combining interests once again. She took the reigns as Head Coach for the Westshore Valkyries leading them to a BCRU Premier Women’s Provincial Championship title.
When Shannon was asked in an interview a few years back “What her favorite part of playing rugby was, her response was: “There are probably 2 main reasons why I love this game so much. The 1st is the challenge of it every game you have to push yourself mentally and physically, and the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. You have to go beyond your comfort zone and really test yourself. It’s so different from other sports you could get by in a soccer or basketball match without really ever committing yourself. But in rugby you have to commit 100% or you are not going to put your whole body on the line to make every tackle or break through each gap. When the whistle blows at the end of the match, and you are completely exhausted because you have managed to leave everything on the field, you know you have pushed your limits and have truly tested yourself. The 2nd reason is the friends I have made through this sport. I have met so many amazing people playing both in Canada and in Ireland.”
Westshore RFC is truly lucky and honoured to have such an established and capable leader re-join our team, to once again come full circle back to where she started as she continues as Westshore Velox RFC Women’s Head Coach since the 2018/2019 season, resulting in a BC Provincial Championship title last year!!
Latoya is from Montreal and played with St. Anne de Bellevue RFC, and attended the University of Western Ontario and Concordia University. In 2012 she received Concordia’s Fittest Athletes of the Year award. Blackwood received her first cap at Nations Cup in 2013 and helped Canada capture their first ever tournament title as a Lock. Latoya was nominated for 2013 Women’s Fifteens Player of the Year and also featured in the 2014 CAN-AM Series where Canada’s Women defeated USA. She played a key role as a member of Canada’s Women’s World cup silver medallists in 2015. In the same year, she signed on professionally with European powerhouse French club Stade Toulousain RFC. She has 31 caps for Canada on the NSWT. Latoya now resides in Victoria, playing for Westshore RFC starting in the 2016 season. She retired from playing in 2018 and taking up the whistle as a BCRU referee, She now is the assistant coach for the Westshore Valkyries Women’s team. Of note she is married to long time Velox Valkyrie Charlotte Haley.