Mike Barry has been a Lion for decades. He’s in the Lions Hall of Fame. He’s previously coached the men’s side, and a decade ago he coached the women’s side. Now he’s back to take the reins for the Leonas. Rugby Report spoke to Mike about his ambitions and expectations.

What are your goals and expectations for the season? For the next three years?

The major goal is to improve the performance on the pitch every time we play. I’m a firm believer in getting the basics right in order for players to express themselves. Over the spring the team has progressed tremendously in two areas, individual defense and tactical kicking; next on the list is to improve our first-phase possession against the better teams, both the scrummage and lineout need a lot of work. When you get better as a team, you attract better players, have added competition and that cycle of improvement just keeps on going. The overall goal though is to have fun (I have a lot more fun putting in the hard work and winning).

This is your second time coaching the women’s side. What’s different since the last time? What challenges does this year’s team face that are unique?

Well there are a lot of new faces for sure. When coaching (the forwards) a number of years back there were a lot of players who were in the first wave, from when the team started, the goal was to win, develop a stable team and a legacy, which they did. The unique challenge for the current squad is the step between the good rugby teams and great rugby teams. We are unique I believe, in that we sit between the two levels, we can beat other good rugby teams handily, but we need to compete and win against the more established clubs in the Northeast. We have a strong side that needs to step it up one more notch.

What do you feel it means to play for the Leonas?

It should mean putting everything you have, all the experience, all the enthusiasm, the power, the endurance, the skill, everything on the pitch, every time you play to represent yourself, the team, the club and the game of rugby. I think also that there is a close bond between the current crop of players and the (earmuffs, sweetie) Old Girls who started the team — they know the effort and sacrifices that have been made to get the team to where they are now, that I believe adds that extra incentive to the current team to perform and improve

Do you feel there is momentum for the program based on the success of Savannah and summer 7s?

The summer 7s is a real positive with a few negatives. The program helps with the conditioning of those participating and individual skills— personally, when I played 7s it improved my tackling immensely — but because of the differences in the 7-a-side game there are tactics that need to be worked on, such as breaking the gain line, before going into the league season.