Why I loved coaching high school rugby

I guess it’s about time that I talk about sports. Last Spring, while I was unemployed I got the opportunity to coach high school boys rugby at my alma mater. Also, today is the Rugby World Cup final of New Zealand vs South Africa. Personally, I’m rooting for NZ as I want to root for greatness but that’s just me. For those who didn’t know, in my journey of self discovery last Spring, I got the privilege of hanging out with 50 some teenage boys to talk and do one of my favourite things in the world – rugby. It was a volunteer position but I love rugby, so if I have time, I’m going to be there. Also today, one of the kids that I coached this past year sent me a very lovely message which made me tear up in the office, so there’s that.

I am biased but I think rugby is the greatest game on the planet. There’s a position for all body sizes and skillsets, you can be good and never touch the ball, and it’s a sport where it’s just about effort. Defense is effort, tackling is effort, communicating is effort – you don’t have to be a freak to play rugby. Effort is something that you choose to do, which is a great show of character. If you see someone lift a lot of weight or run really fast, you can’t be inspired to just do it – but seeing someone work hard, you can be inspired to work harder. And if there’s anything about me, is that I know how to work hard and grind. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I’m always going to be there when you need me.

That aside, I think for a lot of teenagers, they might lack direction in life. Rugby is a sport where the core principles are revolved around hard work, accountability, and community – which are lessons that will only help in life. I don’t want the kids that I coach to end up in bad spots where they feel lost. I want them to understand that things like rugby can give you purpose to push yourself, be involved with others, and have fun while doing it. This is not a sport for showboating or making things about yourself, this is a sport where first and foremost you put the game ahead of yourself. You don’t see the grandstanding in rugby, even at the highest level, like you would in soccer, football, or basketball. That’s just not what this game is about.

Personally, I feel like if I never played rugby, I wouldn’t be as well adjusted as I’ve been. Having to learn how to balance university and rugby, was a challenge that improved my abilities to adjust to the flurry of punches that you get in life. You might be slaving over an Excel doc, but is it really harder than trudging through the mud, snow, rain, or heat while practicing? I don’t think so! I tried my best to have these kids learn about the culture of the game at a smaller scale of an after school activity, hopefully teaching them the skills that will transverse with them in life, as they become adults and hopefully make the world around them better.

But most importantly, I think that high school sports taught me the importance of time. When you only have 4 years to get it right and win at the summit, you realize how finite all of this is. You realize that your time in those jerseys, with those friends, doing what you love will eventually end. So it matters and I want them to understand that it matters. When you have that understanding in life, that even the things that you love will go away and you can’t prevent it, you’re not going to take advantage of the good things. But the beautiful thing about this game is that even when you hang up the boots, it’s still going to love you back. Through the friends, moments, and experiences that you’ve experienced together.

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