Interim head coach Shawn Pittman brings experience to the Warriors
Herriman, Utah — With Chris Latham announcing he is stepping away from the Warriors head coaching role, all eyes are on forwards coach Shawn Pittman as he takes the helm for the 2021 season. With extensive playing and coaching accolades on his resume, Pittman brings energy and experience to a flourishing Warriors program.
Pittman is a Bellingham, Washington native and brings more than 12 years of professional playing and coaching experience to the Warriors staff at just 33 years old.
He began his rugby career in high school and quickly rose to the next level of the game when he was called up to the USA U19 and U20s teams in his first two years. In 2008, Pittman competed in all five matches of the Junior World Cup in Wales.
Pittman continued to bolster his rugby resume, gaining Super League experience with San Francisco Golden Gate and international playing time with the Canadian Bayside Sharks alongside Canadian greats, like Jon Thiel. A chance to play overseas arose for Pittman when he was asked to join the London Welsh, becoming a fixture in their front row through his two-year contract.
But even while playing overseas, Pittman was an integral part of rugby back in his home country.
“Right in the middle of my contract [with London Welsh], I was very lucky to have the privilege of being selected to play in the 2011 RWC in New Zealand [for the USA],” Pittman said. “It was an experience I will never forget.”
He continued to hone his skills with the USA Eagles and the London Welsh until injuries led him to put away his boots in exchange for a less physical role on the pitch.
“In 2013, I suffered a head injury in a game and decided to step away from the sport as a player and step into a coaching role,” Pittman explained.
Making the move back to his home state of Washington, Pittman took a coaching position with Atavus Rugby in 2014. He began to build a coaching resume with notable stints in the MLR, USA Rugby and others.
In 2016, Pittman worked with the USA U20s as an assistant coach. He coached alongside some of the people who helped shape his rugby career, like Rugby ATL Head Coach and GM Scott Lawrence. Soon after, Pittman joined the coaching staff of the USA Eagles, working alongside both coaches and players from his run with the team just four years earlier.
“It was amazing; I never really thought that would be my path,” Pittman said. “Getting to both play and coach in a Rugby World Cup and experience both sides was a special and interesting take on the event. When I originally took the job, we had over ten players that I had personally played rugby with, so it was quite an interesting dynamic.”
One of the players that Pittman met in his role with the Eagles was Paul Mullen, a prop recently signed by the Warriors.
“I met Shawn Pittman at my first Eagles camp back in May 2018. He was and still is the forwards coach for the US National Team,” Mullen said.
After holding key coaching positions for USA Rugby in their 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign and helping the Seattle Seawolves win the MLR championship in the inaugural MLR season, it was a no brainer to bring him on as the forwards coach in the Utah Warriors program. Pittman quickly built relationships with the players through his professional past and expertise, which will make his new transition to interim head coach a seamless one.
“Having Shawn Pittman as our forwards coach last season was awesome, and I am very excited to see what he will do as head coach of the Utah Warriors,” said flanker Bailey Wilson. “The transition was unexpected. However, our core values still stay the same. I think we can expect a very exciting mix of technical and free-flowing rugby this season.”
Mullen is also excited about the opportunity presented with this coaching change.
“Since [Pittman] played in the front row himself, I’m sure he’ll put a lot of emphasis on scrums, lineouts and giving our backs a good platform to work off,” Mullen said. “As a front-row player, I couldn’t be more excited for the upcoming season.”
As a player who started his professional career at a young age, Pittman knows how to boost the morale of younger players on the team. He will also produce a dynamic foundation for the Warriors program to build on in the years to come.
“Through his coaching methods, Shawn has helped me gain the confidence I need as one of the younger players on the squad,” Wilson remarked. “Having great experience as a player and a coach, there is no doubt about it that the Utah Warriors are in great hands with Pittman in charge.”
Despite COVID-19 shaking up Major League Rugby in 2020, Pittman plans to take these program changes in stride and bring the Warriors to even greater heights in the season ahead.
“I want our team to be one of the most prepared teams in the MLR, and I think that is a big takeaway from coaching with USA Rugby, Seattle and last year with the Warriors,” Pittman said. “[We want to] get really good at a few things and make it very difficult for teams to stop us, and if they attempt to, we have enough variety in our game to bounce back.”
With the 2021 MLR season looming on the horizon and the COVID-19 pandemic likely to have an impact on the MLR season, Pittman says he and the staff will look to manage the “controllables.”
“Whoever rolls with the punches and accepts the variability within the season will perform the best,” Pittman said. “Control what you can control, and everything else will fall into place.”
The Utah Warriors begin their 2021 MLR campaign the weekend of March 20th and will open their home-stands at Zions Bank Stadium on March 27th.
For season and single-game ticket options visit www.warriorsrugby.com.
ABOUT THE UTAH WARRIORS
The Utah Warriors are a professional rugby team and are one of 13 teams competing in Major League Rugby. The Warriors players come from nine different countries and many have local ties to the state of Utah. The team is built upon four core values of Community, Family, Tradition and Respect. To learn more, or to purchase tickets, visit us online at www.warriorsrugby.com.
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