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Island Academy Staff


Robin MacDowell

Director of Rugby

Born and raised in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, former Rugby Canada International Robin MacDowell is an athlete-centred 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 grassroots 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.


Alejandro has been a Mexican National team rugby player since 2007 and currently captains the Mexico 7s National team. He has an impressive player and coaching resume having assistant coached the Mexican Women’s 7s team at the 2018 Rugby World Cup, the U19 and U16 Mexico regional teams as well as coaching at the University level. In addition, Alejandro was the Rugby Mexico General Manager from 2018 to 2022, helping grow the game and developing player pathways in Mexico.

Alejandro Chávez Cervantes | Island Academy Lead Coach

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Chantelle is a former England / Great Britain International 7s star who earned a Bronze Medal on the HSBC World Sevens Series. She competed with Saracens Premiership 15s and Bristol Women and is developing into a world class coach. As a certified Level 3 Coach, Chantelle's detail and insights around all aspects of the game set her apart.

"I am incredibly excited and privileged to be back working with this talented group of young athletes. I cannot wait to see them grow and continue to develop within our program". 

Chantelle Miell | Assistant Coach


Jake Thiel | Forwards Specialist Coach

Jake Thiel is a former Canadian National 7s team star and Olympian shifting his sights to coaching after a successful playing career. Jake is passionate about coaching and helping athletes achieve their dreams, his transition from playing at an elite level to coaching signifies a commitment to the development and success of the next generation of rugby players. With his background and dedication, Jake is likely to make a positive impact on the players and contribute to the overall success of MACDOWELLRUGBY. “Throughout my playing years I’ve been lucky enough to coach at camps Robin has put on, so I’m excited to now pursue this as a career. My family has been involved in coaching at the grassroots level for years. After both of their respective international careers came to an end, my parents moved into coaching. I’m excited to follow in their footsteps and continue to grow the game in Canada. I want to help challenge our current youth players to rise to become some of the best in the world,” - Jake Thiel


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 combines 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.

Avi Sharabi | Strength & Conditioning Coach


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 has 2 children Owen and Molly. Judy then 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 managed provincial U14 and U18 girls teams with 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 Coordinator full time. Judy manages 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.

Judy Watson | Program Coordinator


Byron Ellingson

Teacher Liaison

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Sherry Spence | Homestay Coordinator

Sherry Spence has been a longstanding advocate and supporter of women's rugby in the Cowichan Valley. She has been a player, coach, and volunteer at the Cowichan Rugby Football for many years - paving the way for the thousands of junior girls that come through the program. Sherry is also the Cowichan Secondary Girls Head Coach, having been in the role for over 5 years and working one on one with many of our Island Academy athletes who compete at the highschool, club, regional, and provincial level. We are thrilled to have Sherry as our homestay coordinator as there is no one better to connect prospective students to rugby families in the area. Sherry has already made a huge impact on our program and will continue to do so in this new role! "I'm thrilled to take on the New Homestay Coordinator position with MACDOWELLRUGBY! It's amazing to be  working to bring kids to the Cowichan Valley. It's such a beautiful place with so much to offer" - Sherry

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 as 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 U18 provincial level. Brett has gained experience coaching at the University of Regina, as well as assistant coaching with the MacDOWELLRUGBY Elite 7s team and head coaching the MacDOWELLRUGBY U18 Boys at the LA7s tournament. 

Brett has been our lead prairie academy coach since 2017.

Brett Kannenberg | Head Coach


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.

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