Beyond the Odds: The RMC Varsity Rugby Team – making greater strides every year
27279 OCdt (III) Anna Dillman
Saturday, 29 Oct, the RMC Men’s Varsity Rugby Team faced off Western for a chance to advance in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs, and while other RMC varsity teams may find making the playoffs ground-breaking territory, for the rugby team it is their expectation.
For in the last four years, the team has gone to the playoffs three times, ranked fifth out of ten OUA teams. What is even more remarkable is that twelve years ago, RMC did not even have a rugby team. So, how is it that in such as short time frame, this team has managed to not only build a program but has successfully ranked among the top teams in the OUA? It seems that against all the odds, the RMC rugby team has mastered one of the most important variables in any sport: true, dedicated teamwork.
Comparative to other universities in the OUA, RMC teams are met with many more disadvantages than their civilian counterparts. For starters, the smallest civilian university in the OUA with a men’s rugby team has a student population of eight thousand; that is around eight times the pool that RMC can draw from.
In addition, recruiting athletes for RMC is a trickier matter considering that all students who attend the college must be military members. Thus, most the RMC rugby players come from other athletic backgrounds and learn rugby when they join the team. Regarding training seasons, RMC also needs to find alternative times to train as most players complete their trade training in the summers. Therefore, while other teams in the OUA have the luxury of practising all summer long, RMC players have about a month to prepare before the beginning of their season.
Therefore, the question is: how is it that the team has come this far, and how can they consistently perform well in their seasons?
According to Sean McDonaugh (photo left) -the team’s head coach- their success is derived from a mix of hard work on the field, strategic play, and the team’s “family” atmosphere. Each day the players are on the field from four thirty to six thirty, Monday to Friday, and occasionally on the weekends.
In the summer, the team practices days on end, and with the addition of the dome, the winter is also full of practice sessions. And, while this schedule may not seem as rigorous to other programs when one considers that most of the team takes five or more courses; must learn French; hold leadership positions; and need to complete a fitness test, the stakes are much higher: every possible time to train makes the difference.
Furthermore, the team has learned to work in what Coach, McDonaugh refers to as “small specialised units”. As opposed to focusing on individual players, the team practices in particular groups that all support each other with specific tasks, as some players are new to the sport and others are more experienced. The idea is that the team must learn to perfect specific movements and function as a cohesive, moving body. This system, in addition to raising an effective seconds team, has enabled the coaching staff to gauge their strengths and weakness and capitalise on what they are good at.
Finally, what is the most exceptional quality about this team is its culture. The rugby team is often referred to as a “family”, and one can see why. After almost every game, at home or on the road, the team huddles up with friends and family who came to spectate to reiterate that the team is a network of “past, present, and future players”. The team recognises that they are a part of something greater than themselves and it has created an amazing, inclusive team culture.
Although the Rugby season has come to a close, and the team did not advance further in the playoffs, they have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with. They have embodied the true meaning of sports, which is not to necessarily win but to attempt to be the greatest. They have shown that beyond the odds, the numbers, and the statistics, there is a beating heart, there is a team that is not afraid to be something bigger and better every year they step on the field.
The rugby team like all the varsity teams at the college are most appreciative of the funding support that they receive from the RMC Foundation.