How I started coaching rugby

Hamilton High School RFC - That's me on the right in the grey shirt!

Before I started playing rugby I looked for a team sport more challenging and exciting than touch football. With its contact, flow, and running score clock, rugby turned out to be just what I needed. So how did I go from being a weekend warrior to running practices three times a week at the local High School?

In the beginning

I started playing rugby in 1994 in the historic and remote city of St. John’s, Newfoundland on the far-eastern edge of Canada. Back then, I didn’t know much about the finer points of rugby. Like many of the folks reading this blog, it wasn’t long before rugby became a central part of my life.

In 1996 I left Canada’s East coast I headed west to Edmonton, Alberta, just a few hundred kilometers east of the Rocky Mountains. Finding a new rugby club was high on my to-do list. Luckily, I stumbled across a great club called the Strathcona Druids. I spent a wonderful 6 years with the Druids maturing as a player and discovering the intricate details of the game.

Starting my first club

In 2002 I emigrated to America. Work took my wife and I to Long Island, New York. While there wasn’t a rugby club in Suffolk County, I did catch wind of a few guys who played in college and wanted to form a team. Together, we started a rugby sevens team that eventually became the Suffolk Bull Moose.

During this period of my life, there was not much down time. In addition to family life, work, rugby training and matches, and club administration, life was hectic. In those first few years I had the most rugby experience among my teammates. This meant I had additional responsibilities such as captaining and sometimes coaching the team.

Breaking my ankle at rugby practice just three weeks after the birth of my first child in 2004 didn’t help matters.

As the years passed, others on the club stepped up to ease the load and life settled into a comfortable routine.

Transitioning to admin

In 2007, my wife and I moved again for work and we landed in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I continued to leverage the global rugby network and it wasn’t long before I found a new club. I joined the Westside Harlequins (now Milwaukee Barbarians) and eventually moved full-time into administration in roles such as treasurer and eventually president.

In 2009 I also started managing the Lakefront 7s, the largest summer rugby event in America.

A new opportunity

In 2017, a former teammate sent me a message informing me of a new girls rugby team at the local High School. After meeting with the head coach, Hamilton High School took me on as Assistant Coach of the back line and I made a commitment to attending practice once per week.

At the time of this writing, I have about 18 months of coaching experience with two full seasons under my belt. It is a wonderful surprise to discover that coaching is such a rewarding and fun experience. In fact, I may enjoy it more than playing rugby (though I still love playing touch rugby with the other old farts at my club)!

Suffice it to say that I’m now attending every practice at the school (currently three times per week) and every match. To make time for coaching I’ve stepped back from most of my administrative duties with adult/club rugby to focus on developing the High School program.

Turnover time

I’m sure many of the current and future rugby coaches reading this post have similar origin stories. I’d love to hear more about yours in the comments below!

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