For Shane Dunne, rugby is a lifelong passion. After decades as a player and coach, he stepped in at the helm of the Emerald Warriors RFC – a team that not only plays competitively at home and abroad, but also creates an affirming and inclusive space for LGBTQ players and spectators. The club is represented by 85% players who identify as gay.
Shane has been with UPS for eight years – starting as a package car driver in Dublin and working his way through different roles in sales and operations to become an operations manager.
He also trains the Emerald Warriors Club’s first and second teams three times a week and leads them during their weekend matches. Shane’s coaching was not only a chance to lend his experience to a local rugby team, but also an opportunity to develop as an ally.
“As part of the training to become coach I took a course to better understand the challenges of the gay community,” Shane said. “As a heterosexual man it really helped me to think about my preconceived notions and broaden my thinking to be a strong leader for the team.”
A jewel in the crown of Irish rugby
The Emerald Warriors RFC were established in 2003 as Ireland’s first inclusive rugby club. Their mission is to remove the barriers that people in the LGBTQ community often face in playing the sport they love.
They started with around 10 players – barely enough to field a team – and today they’ve grown to three teams and over 100 players. They play competitively both within Ireland in the local Leinster leagues, as well as internationally, thanks in part to Shane’s top-tier coaching.
“Shane has become a huge ally to the club through the commitment and the energy he brings,” said Tom Hogan, club secretary. “His leadership and support have made a huge impact on the members of the club and on the plans for performing to a high standard.”
Lessons for leadership on and off the pitch
As a UPSer, Shane knows the importance of creating an environment where people of all identities not only feel respected – but encouraged to bring their ideas and identities to work.
“On a rugby pitch, there's a place for everyone. And it’s the same at UPS,” Shane said. “As a coach, a mentor or as a manager, I have to understand people’s experience and communicate with them to help them move toward our goals – whether it’s winning a match or delivering packages.”
The pandemic has slowed down the team’s training and competition of late, but not before they became a fixture on the international stage. In June 2019 the Emerald Warriors RFC hosted the Union Cup – an inclusive rugby tournament that welcomed 1,500 players from 40 teams across Europe – in Dublin.
It was a fitting home, as Ireland was the first country in the world to approve gay marriage in a public referendum. Shane is proud of what the country has done, as well as the strides UPS is making. “UPS is becoming a place that applauds the individuality of people,” Shane said. “And it’s great the LGBTQ community is being recognized. It’s a huge change and it’s very much for the better – to recognize the quality of the gifts that all people can bring to our company.”