Growing the Game

January 04 2017

Quest University - Squamish

Rugby Growing in Squamish - Quest University in the Spotlight

posted Jan 4 2017
[ed. comments below. Thanks to Ninety Nine Social for bringing the article to our attention.]

Stories like this are great and show the process that drives growth. Players from high school take their knowledge and enthusiasm and help to grow the game in new areas, in this case Quest University. It starts off with casual games and with perseverance and support it grows into something bigger.

A couple of factors that play in the story, the importance of sevens in growing the game, and the importance of a local club to help the growth. The article points out how the rejuvenation of club rugby in Squamish has helped growth of the Quest University program.

So as a high school coach remember you're not only developing future players but future organizers, administrators and coaches so passing on the love for the game and a few organizational skills is important.

Making the pitch for rugby at Quest
by Mike Chouinard - Squamish Chief

Rugby hasn’t joined basketball and soccer as a varsity sport at Quest just yet.

The sport is gaining ground quickly though, as was evident during the recent rugby sevens tournament at the university, which involved Quest University teams, the Squamish Axemen and clubs from other post-secondary institutions in the province.

Rugby did not start as an initiative from the top down but rather from the efforts of students who began playing informally, then moved on to more formal intramurals.

Former students Michael Luba and his brother Andrew are credited with bringing the sport to the campus during their days at Quest.

Luba admits while he and a few other has played the sport at the high school level, for some it was a new experience.

Andrew had a little more experience on the pitch than Michael, though both had played in high school.

“We both played on the same team in high school,” Luba says.

The brothers and a few others decided to starting playing casually.

“We started playing once a week or once every few weeks…. It was a real struggle in the first few years getting the guys motivated.”

In 2013, Luba graduated and moved to UBC to do post-graduate work, though he stuck around the help coach the men’s team, and they were able to start some small tournaments but nothing of any scale.

One development that helped the sport at Quest was the reincarnation of the local men’s team, the Squamish Axemen, which helped provide someone to play against.

“We were able to get a scrimmage with the Axemen,” Luba says. “Having the Axemen in Squamish was something to work toward.”

Another thing that helped was having some support in high places on campus.

Luba worked with then-athletic director Sean Shook to help make contacts with other PACWEST Conference people to work toward a tourney for teams from different universities. While still not varsity level, Quest was playing against real teams and took part in a tournament in the fall of 2014 in Nanaimo versus Vancouver Island University and Douglas College. A tournament at Simon Fraser University followed in early 2015, and Quest itself played host to a small tournament in April 2015, with the Axemen and Douglas coming to the campus to play. Again, Luba credits Shook and the university administration for giving their support to the idea.

“We didn’t have inroads at the intercollegiate level,” he says.

He admits it was not always easy getting enough guys out to play, though it did get easier as things got more organized and they started to look like a team.

“For some reason I think getting the jerseys was a big factor,” he says.

Currently, Luba is studying law at McGill University, and even though he has moved on, he knows Quest has supporters like Colin Wilt on hand to help grow the sport through events like the recent rugby sevens tournament.

“He always had a lot of enthusiasm for it,” he says.

Luba also remembers women like Alexandra Schuster, who now captains the women’s team, and Katie Alexandre coming out to work on kicking or passing drills.

“The two of them, they were always out,” he says. “They were super-passionate and super-dedicated.”

Those two, in turn, began to organize women into rugby matches, which has culminated in a women’s sevens team that took part in the recent tournament, playing its first matches against squads from UBC.

It is not clear where the sport will go on campus. While it might be too soon to add rugby to the university’s list of varsity sports, it is gaining popularity.

Darcy Patterson is coach of B.C.’s elite girls sevens program and is based out of North Vancouver but represents an area that includes Squamish. She was involved with helping organize the recent sevens tournament and also came to town in the fall to teach a training session.

“The whole of sport of sevens is growing,” she says. “It’s exciting and it’s fun to watch.”

She is confident that local rugby advocates like the Axemen and Sean Carter, who has been organizing kids’ rugby as well as helping to coach Quest players, will be able to increase the popularity of the sport. The hope is to add sevens teams, especially for the women, and grow the sport at the high school level.

“They’re definitely really trying to get a program going,” she says.

Back at Quest at least, the sport clearly has caught on and may be onto the bigger things in the future, something that sits well with Michael Luba.

“It’s nice to see it grow,” he says.

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