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Emil Signes



Emil began his coaching career with the newly created Bethlehem (PA) Hooligans in 1974 (15s), adding sevens in 1977.  Inspired by his first mentor, Welsh coach John Ryan, he coached Bethlehem until 1992: in 15s they won 4 East Penn (EPRU) and 1 Mid-Atlantic championship. They made the USA Round of 16 in 1981 and were undefeated in Spring 1990. They won dozens of sevens tournaments.  Bethlehem came in 3rd in the first-ever USA Rugby National Club Sevens in 1985 and 5th in 1987.

He was Head Coach (7s) at Philadelphia-Whitemarsh (PW) from 1996 to 2001, and Assistant (15s) Coach to George Betzler from 1997-99; in 1999 PW were 15s Super League quarterfinalists and National Club Sevens champions.

He assisted Joe Morrison from 2006-09 (Lehigh Valley 2006-07 and Schuylkill River 2008-09). In 3 of those 4 years, their club made the national 7s tournament.

From 2010 to 2013 he helped Dave Sitton and Chris Kron with the U. of Arizona men. They were finalists, semifinalists, and twice quarter finalists of the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC).

Other clubs he helped coach include Lafayette College, Lehigh University, and North Penn High School.

Women: Emil supported the Maulie Maguires WRFC of Bethlehem from their inception in 1976, and was their sevens coach for several years between 1982 and 1995. They earned a berth as one of the 8 teams in the first unofficial national club sevens in 1993.

Emil was Head Coach, Princeton U. women from 2004 to 2013 and since then assistant to current coach Chris Ryan; they were national finalists (15s) in 2004 and in the Round of 16 five times. Princeton was 3rd in the USA in sevens in 2013 and 2015.  In the 2015 CRC he assisted Adam Dick with the Arizona women.

Select-Side Rugby

Men: From 1977 to 1982 Emil was Assistant (15s) Coach (to George Betzler), and from 1982 to 1987 Head Coach of the EPRU.  From 1985 to 1989 he was Head Coach of the ERU (Eastern Rugby Union) U-23. He was Assistant ERU Coach to Clarence Culpepper in 1986.

From 1984 to 1995 Emil was Head Coach, ERU Sevens.  The ERU won 8 national championships.

From 1996 to 1999 he was Head Coach of the Collegiate All Star Sevens, who competed against 7 senior All-Star teams.  In 1998 the Collegiate All Stars won the championship.

Women: From 1990 to 1995 Emil was assistant to Joe Kelly with the ERU Women’s 15s (4 championships in 6 events).

From 2001 to 2006 Emil coached the USA U-23 Women Sevens, competing against 7 senior All-Star teams.  They were finalists in 2002.

International Rugby

Men: From 1987 to 1990 Emil was US Men’s National Sevens Head Coach.  They had a winning record, reaching the Cup Round once in Hong Kong and won the Hong Kong Plate – against Canada – in 1988.

He managed the USA Men’s National Sevens from 1991 to 1993 (including the first RWC 7s in Edinburgh), supporting coach Steve Finkel.

He returned to the US Men’s National Sevens as Video Analyst between 2007 and 2009, working with coach Al Caravelli.

Women: Emil founded the US Women’s National Sevens team after helping provide the impetus for international women’s sevens; he coached the team from 1997 to 2005, during which time they were 57-19-4.

He was backs’ coach of the USA Women’s National 15s team from 1991-93 (assistant to George Henderson) and in 1999 (to Joe Kelly).

Other national 7s teams: Emil assisted with the national men’s sevens teams of Germany (1992), Portugal (1996) and Trinidad & Tobago (2000, 2004).  He spent time with the Cuban women in an unofficial capacity in 2011.

Emil, coach of coaches

Emil has coached more than 25 players that became head or assistant coaches of one of the US national team or national age/grade programs. In addition he has coached several players that went on to coach other nations’ national programs.

Atlantis / Cougars

Emil created the invitational sevens side Atlantis in 1986; the Atlantis women first played in 1992.  To date (and still counting), Atlantis has fielded 221 squads (1126 players) in 31 countries. 208 US Eagles (120 men and 88 women) have played for Atlantis; more than half represented Atlantis prior to the US. Atlantis players have represented national teams of 14 countries other than the US.

At Keith Seaber’s invitation, Emil coached the US invitational side Cougars at the Melrose (Scotland) Sevens from 1986 to 1988.

Emil and the Olympics / Boys and Girls Together

Alex Goff published a Rugby Magazine article in October 2009, "Why Should we Thank This Man for Rugby Getting in the Olympics," in which he stated “Rugby would not be an Olympic sport without the women, and women would not have an international 7s presence were it not for one man – Emil Signes.”

Explanation: in 1995, while coaching Atlantis (men) in Dubai, Emil met a Hong Kong women’s team and urged them to include women at “the'' Hong Kong Sevens. They listened, and it happened … in steps.  In 1996 Hong Kong created a club tourney; Atlantis’ performance spurred the Hong Kong Women to create an international tournament in 1997, a week before the men’s tournament.  Starting in 1999, the women’s final was integrated within the men’s event in Hong Kong Stadium. This woman's presence paved the way to women’s inclusion in the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2009, and following this tournament, at which many IOC selectors were present, rugby sevens was chosen as an Olympic Sport. For details and documentation, see

These accomplishments were in line with Emil’s long-standing attempt to enhance the mutual appreciation of men and women rugby players for the other’s dedication, skills, achievements, and love of the game.  Much of this was done via co-ed Atlantis tours (see above link).

Emil has been married to Heide for 50 years; they have 4 children and 12 grandchildren.  He earned an S.B. and an S.M. from MIT and a Ph.D. from Rutgers.