Island Academy Staff

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Robin MacDowell

Director of Rugby

 Head Coach

Born and raised in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, former Rugby Canada International Robin MacDowell is an athlete-centered coach who has been coaching sports at all levels for over 27 years.


Robin grew up playing multiple sports, showing promise in more than one discipline. Robin made the choice to move from the Valley to Europe at 19 years old to pursue a professional rugby career in both France and Italy. After several years, he returned home to attend University, where he played on the University of Victoria varsity team, as well as to realize his dream of representing Rugby Canada on the World Sevens Series, including the 2006 Melbourne, Australia Commonwealth Games. 


As a former international athlete that travelled the world over as both player and coach, Robin has a strong understanding of what it takes to get to the next level and he knows how to help elite athletes achieve success. His true passion lies with helping athletes reach their goals at every level of the game – from grass roots to high performance. 


Robin has been highly successful in coaching various select teams, including: youth, club, provincial, national, and international programs. He has seen many of his players go on to play at the highest level of the sport, attending many international tournaments.


Robin also has vast experience coaching at the international level, most notably the five years he spent with the Mexican Women’s National Sevens team. He coached and lead the team through the 2018 Rugby World Cup 7s in San Francisco, as well as 4 multi-sport games.


For the past 6 years, Robin has worked with the Canadian Men's and Women's 7s pathway programs.

Lauryn began playing rugby in her first year of high school and quickly fell in love with the sport, representing the Belleville Bulldogs, Cobourg Saxons, and currently plays with the Cowichan Piggies Senior Women's team. In her high school years, Lauryn was a three-time provincial champion with Trenton High School (2014-2016) and proudly represented Ontario at the U16 and U20 levels in 2015 and 2017. In 2017, Lauryn began her varsity rugby career with Trent University as an inside back while completing her Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a specialization in teaching. At the end of her second year, she also travelled to Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, to train with Inside Running Academy.


After her time in New Zealand, Lauryn’s holistic and humanistic approach to athlete development directed her studies to mindfulness, motivation and self-regulation within the context of sport and education. Lauryn integrated these approaches and schools of thought in the development of a mental skills program for varsity athletes at Trent University to teach athletes how to focus through developing the skills of attention and poise, and continues to use this approach while working with student-athletes and teams.

Lauryn Bons

Island Academy Assistant Coach/Mental Skills Coach

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Island Academy Specialist Forwards & Defensive Coach

Michael Smith

Michael grew up in South Surrey, BC and played various sports as a kid. He started playing rugby his first year of highschool and immediately began moving up the ranks, he competed for Fraser Valley and Vancouver South rep teams as well as for team BC. Michael was first brought onto the national circuit at the U17 level and continued to play until U20 while pursuing his studies at the University of British Columbia where he also played 4 years as a Thunderbird. After graduating from UBC in 2020, he joined the Pacific Pride/Canadian Development Academy and from there was signed to the San Diego Legion Major League Rugby team for whom he currently plays. Michael has earned 5 caps for the Senior Men’s Canadian Team as a phenomenal back rower. Through Pacific Sport, Michael has had the opportunity to coach youth rugby in the Fraser Valley, but has mainly focused on mentorship of young student athletes both in highschool and university. Michael hopes to bring some guidance to the young student athletes in the MacDOWELLRUGBY Island Academy program about what it’s like to play for a university, national team, and a professional rugby league while simultaneously providing some on-field position specific advice.

Avi comes from a strong rugby background being a three time National Champion with BC Rugby, having played varsity rugby for the Uvic Vikes, and combined with excellent education and experience working with high performance athletes. Avi graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and a minor in Psychology, additionally, she has worked for 4 years as a strength and conditioning coach with developmental, varsity and professional athletes. "I am excited to join the MacDOWELLRUGBY Island Academy team and help create dominant athletes". 

Avi Sharibi

Strength & Conditioning Coach


Program Coordinator

Judy Watson

Judy grew up playing multiple sports in New Brunswick, but her biggest love was rugby.  She then moved to Saskatchewan with her husband Mark who farms and they have 2 children Owen and Molly.  Judy returned to rugby when she convinced her son Owen to join the MacDOWELLRUGBY Academy in Regina, SK which is where both Owen and Molly fell in love with rugby. Judy has managed provincial U14 and U18 girls teams within SK, and was also the MacDOWELLRUGBY Academy coordinator in SK until she decided to move to BC with her son to take on the position of Academy and Homestay Coordinator full time. Judy manages all of the athletes who move from out of town to help them find homestay families for their time in BC. She also plays a vital role in ensuring the academy runs smoothly for day to day operations. 

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Traci Hamilton

Teacher Liaison,

Cowichan Secondary School

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Prairie Academy Staff

Brett began playing rugby in his first year of high school and has continued in the sport to this day. He played Sr. Men's rugby in Regina from 2008 - 2015, as well represented Saskatchewan at the U18 and  U20 levels in 2008 and 2009. He had the opportunity to play rugby for the University of Regina while completing a degree in Education. Brett began the transition into coaching while in University, starting at the high school level and progressing to the provincial U18 level. Currently, Brett is also had experience coaching at the University of Regina, as well an assistant coach with the MacDOWELLRUGBY Elite 7s team.

Brett has been our lead prairie academy coach since 2017.

Brett Kannenberg

Prairie Academy Head Coach

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Nishant Jain

Business and Operations Strategist

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Patrick McNary

Administration/Financial Consultant 

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Chrissa Tromp

Project Coordinator

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Maxine O'Leary

Marketing & Communications


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Join the MacDOWELLRUGBY Team

If you are interested in joining the MacDOWELLRUGBY team and are someone who DREAMS big, BELIEVES in themselves, and wants to SUCCEED in both rugby and in life, please visit our JOIN THE TEAM page to view current opportunities.