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(Brown Univ) College Coaches Corner Part 2

Guest Post by Dave LaFlamme, Brown University Men’s Rugby

Did you miss Part I? You can read it here.

Part II:

On the athletic end, research the program. What type of environment are you looking to get into? Your time management skills come into play here. While collegiate rugby is primarily a club sport, more and more varsity programs are cropping up. Understand that recruiting into a varsity program may require a larger time commitment. If you intend to major in a particularly time-consuming subject, then look at how sport will dovetail into the academic piece so you’re not biting off more than you can chew.

Photo Credit: Brown University

Club programs may (or may not) be an alternative to consider; however, the title “club sport” means different things at different schools. This isn’t a one-size (or in this instance a one-name) fits all. When looking at programs designated as “clubs,” you need to ask what this means on a more detailed level. Who runs the program? Do the students direct all the workings of the team directly to the administration? Is there a coach? Is that coach paid? If so, are they part-time or full-time? Does the university deal with the coach directly or just the coach? How are they funded? Will you be required to pay dues to support the program, or are they just for team-related expenditures? What happens if you get hurt? Where do you go for treatment? Are you on your own? How does a team get to games? How does the school view the program? Do they support and value them on various levels, or do they tolerate the fact that they have many kids playing the sport at school? When you get into more structured programs, many of these answers appear “varsity-like.”

Photo Credit: Brown University Men’s Rugby

Know what type of coaching you’ll be getting. Most schools can fit that bill if you’re content with playing some sport while you get your education. If you have larger aspirations, then make sure you choose an environment that will help cultivate that experience. I have multiple conversations with them about rugby and the team. See if they can connect you with current players… maybe even current players in concentrations you are interested in. After you have had these conversations, assess your interaction. Sometimes, your gut is a good gauge here. We (coaches) all get into this because we love the game and want to give back. No one should ever be faulted for that. However, since you’ll be spending at least 4 years at this place, does this coach give you the feeling that they can help you achieve what you want from the sport? Some coaches are there because teams need a coach and want to help out as best they can. Others are great at putting structure into a team, like conducting an orchestra. I find that the more successful coaches can add structure but, more importantly, develop people. This applies both on and off the field. They know how to fix problems. They provide positive feedback. They also provide support to their players to help them develop as people. Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America, was interviewed in December 2020 about how rugby played a part in his development as a future leader in America. It was his coach who taught him the game; however, his coach also taught him discipline. He was placed in situations that would challenge him. This required Brian to overcome obstacles through a variety of learned skills. Good coaches can instill these qualities and values in their players.

Don’t be fooled by titles (aka divisions). Some top-quality Small College and Division II programs will still provide a similar experience to a D1A or D1AA program. After all, college is still about education. Sport should add value to your time in school. College is meant to be an experience. I often say to prospects, “You’ll come to Brown because of the education you will get and the opportunities it will create down the line… rugby here is like the icing on the cake”.

My last point that bears mentioning is to be confident when going into your next level of life but also approach it with the understanding that this next experience will also be part of your growth. Just because you were the best player for the Teutopolis Wooden Shoes in Illinois doesn’t mean you’ll jump right into the same level. There’s a high probability that there will be someone there just as good as (if not better than) you. There’s also a learning curve that I’ve never seen anyone skip. Confidence will allow you to step out onto that field. Humility will allow you to develop as a player and contribute to the team's success.


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