Guest Post by Dave LaFlamme, Brown University Men’s Rugby
Did you miss Part I? You can read it here.
On the athletic end, research the program. What type of environment are you looking to get into. Your time management skills hugely come into play here. While collegiate rugby is primarily a club sport across the board, more and more varsity programs are cropping up. Understand that there may be a larger time commitment if recruited into a varsity program. If you intend on majoring in a subject that’s particularly time-consuming, then look at how sport will dovetail into the academic piece so you’re not biting off more than you can chew.
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 that are designated as “club”, 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 with 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 do they just coach? How are they funded? Will you be required to pay dues to support the program or are they just dues 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 them and value them on a variety of levels or do they just tolerate the fact that they have a bunch of kids at their school playing the sport? When you get into more structured programs, many of these answers will appear very “varsity-like”.
Know what type of coaching you’ll be getting. If you’re content with playing a bit of sport while you get your education, most schools can fit that bill. If you have larger aspirations, then make sure you choose an environment that will help cultivate that experience. Have multiple conversations with them about rugby as well as 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 would like to from the sport. Some coaches are there because teams need a coach and they want to help out as best they can. Others are great at putting structure to 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 develop as people. Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America was interviewed in December of 2020 on how rugby played a part in his development as a future leader in America. It was his coach that 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). There are some top-quality Small College and Division II programs out there that will still provide a very 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 will often say to prospects that “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 is going to be part of your growth as well. Just because you were the best player for the Teutopolis Wooden Shoes in Illinois doesn’t mean that 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 success of the team.