Seattle, Washington, USA
Recently appointed Rugby Americas North (RAN) Communications Manager Carly MacKinnon is no stranger to sports, rugby, or communications.
She has a Sports Management and Business degree from Washington State University, and experience in a number of rugby and communications-based roles including as Coach, Social Media Manager, and Content Developer at Atavus Rugby, Marketing & Communications Director at the Seattle Seawolves, and is currently the Senior Communications Specialist for the Improvement and Innovation team at one of the top pediatric hospitals in the United States – Seattle Children’s.
Carly has also been a rugby player (and self-confessed fan) for 13 years, a Coach (World Rugby Level 2 certified since 2015) for 10 years, Referee for two years, Team Manager for nine years, and was impressively a 2020 ‘15 Under 30’ Award recipient for the US Women’s Rugby Foundations inaugural class so she is certainly well-equipped to fulfill her new role with RAN.
Want to know more about Carly?
Get to know her a little better with our RAN Rapid-fire Q&A below.
MacKinnon with her late mother, Rene, after a fifteens match for her fifteens team, Seattle Rugby Club.
1. Name: Carly MacKinnon
2. Age: 31 years old
3. How did you first get involved with rugby?
A friend asked me to come to a rugby practice when I was a Junior in high school, but I was already committed to track athletics. Then, when I became a Senior, she asked me again and I went along.
All it took was one practice, and a great program in the Kent Crusaders, and I was hooked!
MacKinnon competing in the 2022 USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship with her sevens team, Washington Athletic Club. Photo: Alex Ho
4. What is your most memorable rugby moment?
Because I have been privileged to wear so many hats thus far within the game, I have a handful of wonderful rugby moments.
However, being on the sidelines for the two Major League Rugby Championships in 2018 and 2019 when the Seawolves won is definitely a big highlight. Particularly, the 2019 win over the San Diego Legion when Seattle turned the last play of the game into a 13-player maul to drive over and win it. Seawolves Wing Brock Staller made the extra kick from the sidelines just for fun.
Having said that, I am really looking forward to making many more awesome memories with RAN and all its members.
5. What is your favorite thing about rugby?
Growing up, I actually wanted to play American football, but girls weren’t (and still aren’t) allowed.
So, with rugby having the same laws, especially around contact, uniform, and ball for all genders, it really won me over. Rugby: the sport with the equal playing field.
MacKinnon refereeing a girls high school match ahead of an MLR match at Starfire Stadium. Photo: Seattle Seawolves
6. Why did you apply for the position of RAN Communications Manager?
I just felt like this was the next step for me to make a bigger impact in the sport.
I wanted to utilize my communications and rugby experience, as well as my passion for the game, to think about bigger-picture strategy and continue to be an asset to rugby on a different level.
7. What does the job entail?
Storytelling across digital platforms, collaborating with our countries’ unions and World Rugby, spreading the word about educational and competition opportunities to our members, and showcasing the stories and achievements of all the amazing people involved in rugby across Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the USA.
8. What does it mean to you to be appointed in this new role?
It means a whole lot.
I know I have big shoes to fill and the responsibilities that come with the role fall into very important elements of the game. Knowing that the staff and the RAN leadership are backing my ability to leverage my experience and genuine love of the game to be successful in this role has allowed me to accept the offer and feel really supported in doing so.
MacKinnon assisting TV broadcast with player identification in Seawolves’ warm ups in 2018. Photo by Quinn Width
9. What are you most looking forward to?
Building relationships with all the RAN stakeholders from across the region, as well as with World Rugby, to find new ways to bolster our efforts as well as to reinforce what’s already pushing people towards their goals.
In my experience in helping to grow the Seawolves’s Major League communications channels to rank in the top three across the League, I’m excited to take what I’ve learned thus far and to bring to RAN to assist in whatever way I can.
10. What is something unique that you bring to the table?
The fact that I am a current player, referee, coach, and in an administrative role, paired with my vast experience in rugby marketing, is something unique that I think I bring to RAN.
It sets me up to know what is needed for success on a variety of levels and across the spectrum from grassroots all the way up to management and administration.
Shalom Suniula, MacKinnon, Waisale Serevi, and Richie Walker after coaching a youth session at a school in Bermuda on behalf of Atavus Rugby.
11. In your opinion, why is RAN so important to rugby?
With a player population of over 1,000,000 across 21 countries, and with plenty more athletes and people out there that could step into the game, RAN is a tremendous contributor to the world’s rugby playing population.
Having said that, RAN also has the potential to grow significantly both in performance and overall playing numbers, and as we (as a region) climb out of the ‘pandemic seasons’, I can’t wait to see what lies ahead and am grateful to be a part of it.
12. What is your vision for rugby in the region?
Each country in the region is in a different state of competition and trajectory with both their community and national team programs. I hope to meet each area where they are at, and to support them in ways that make sense for them.
As we build towards hosting an Olympics and two Rugby World Cups in our region the next 10 years, we have a unique and exciting opportunity to use such pinnacle sporting events as driving forces for rugby’s growth both on and off the field.
MacKinnon capturing content for the Seawolves during MLR preseason in 2021. Photo by Quinn Width
13. How can people get involved?
Rugby is always looking for people to join our community. There is a place for everyone.
Whether you have played your whole life, or just found out that the game exists, folks can play tackle or touch rugby, become a coach, referee, and/or support from a fundraising, administrative, design/creative, or marketing role. The list is endless and any program in our region would be happy to have you!
14. Who are the RAN teams to watch in 2023?
After watching the U19 bracket at the 2022 RAN Super 7s, it’s safe to say the next generation of RAN athletes are going to continue to impress in 2023 and beyond.
The Mexico Women return to the World Rugby Challenger Series this year after a well-rounded performance over Jamaica that proved they are definitely ‘ones to watch’.
The Jamaican Men showcased their freshly acquired Rugby World Cup experience by winning the 2022 RAN Super 7s, but were challenged by other competing countries in November.
St. Lucia has also rejoined the Union as full members, so stay tuned for more rugby from them.
And, hopefully more 15s will be coming to the region in 2023, utilizing that format of the game to get more players on the field and more minutes under their belt.
MacKinnon with colleague Alicia Richardson after the Seawolves won the 2019 MLR Championship Shield in San Diego, CA.
15. How can people share their stories with you?
Folks can contact me with story ideas about our region’s players, coaches, administration, programs, and other roles within rugby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am always on the lookout for a good story.