Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Media
Local high school boys’ rugby players in the Northumberland region interested in playing at the college level are encouraged to contact Georgian Grizzlies head coach John Daggett.
The men’s rugby program at the Georgian College in Barrie has had tremendous success in recent years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges and Daggett knows the importance of recruiting players back to post-secondary sports.
“A lot of young athletes did not play in the spring of 2020, so it’s been almost two years since a lot of young people have played so getting people back into the game, getting them interested again…we’ve had people that have come and gone to college and graduated already and rugby didn’t even exist for them,” Daggett, the 2016 OCAA Men’s Rugby Coach of the Year and Rugby Canada Male Coach of the Year, told Total Sports Media. “We had a great group of athletes ready to go in 2020 and all but about four of them have graduated.”
Daggett noted the Grizzlies had a strong run finishing atop their division for five straight years, also medaled those years and have an 87 per cent win-rate. That success, though, begins off the field.
“Really we focus on the culture. We have a great group of young people, we always make sure that’s a priority and because of that we’ve had success on the field,” Daggett remarked. “The players do a lot of goal-setting personally and as a team and if they leave the program with a gold medal, but the same person they were when they came in, we’ve kind of failed them. We’re not just player development, but individual development.”
Daggett recently posted to social media his desire to recruit players to the Georgian Grizzlies this fall. “We realize most people have not played for close to two years. Rest assured we will be starting at a very basic level of learning with an extended training camp and fewer games,” he wrote. “With this in mind, we are also reaching out to any athletes who are interested in learning and playing the game.”
During the interview, Daggett added “we have to reintroduce them to being active and fit and healthy before we can start having them tackling and running into each other, a lot of the contact stuff. We’re going to spend a lot of time initially on skills and a lot of time on getting guys fit to play.”
Interested players should call or text Daggett at 705-229-6272 prior to the next school year.
While the Grizzlies draw most of their players from the Simcoe area, Daggett knows there are strong high school and club programs from other regions as well.
“They bring kind of a different perspective, a different style sometimes of playing the game and it’s great,” Daggett said. “We bring everybody in and because we have such a big focus on culture, we spend a lot of time, especially early on, having team meals, getting guys together, working out together and building that team cohesion.”
Players should be committed to learning, both on the field and in the classroom.
“Of all the varsity sports at Georgian, rugby has the highest on-time graduation rate and we take great pride in that. We’re looking for people to come in and play rugby, but also be good people and willing to learn,” said Daggett, who has worked in the cooperative education department at Georgian College for 16 years and knows support is available academically and for mental health.
“It’s a relatively small college, the programs are really good, there’s great support from faculty and support for students who might struggle academically. The support network here at Georgian is exceptional and that’s something we look to build with our players as well: a level of trust and honesty and when they are struggling, they feel comfortable to come to us and say ‘I need some help’ and the help is always there.”
Check out more at www.georgiangrizzlies.ca.