The Canadian Rugby Community - December 2019

December 30 2019

Jamie Cudmore - Head Coach Pacific Pride

A Chat with Pacific Pride Coach Jamie Cudmore: The Pride, RSN, The Book, The Move and the Importance of the Rugby Community Staying Positive

I had a chance to talk to Jamie Cudmore this morning over the phone to catch up on the Pacific Pride and his move from France. The overall mood from him was one of positivity, he's been happy about the Pacific Pride start to the season, especially considering how everything came together so quickly after his move from France. It's been a hectic time as the family relocated to the southern Cowichan Valley area and he started working with the Pacfic Pride Academy out of Langford.

The Pacific Pride went undefeated in the first half of the BC Premier League but more importantly the players coming through his program are in demand and the program is building up a strong reputation. He already has the unenviable task of replacing 7 players from the fall season. David Richard has gone to the sevens program, several players have gone to the Toronto Arrows and there's more MLR signings ongoing. Jamie didn't go into details but we saw Josh Thiel now listed on the San Diego Legion wiki page and we heard rumours that Quinn Ngawati may be getting a trial with them, unconfirmed at this time. He already has a few players coming in next week and it's a busy time getting everything arranged for their arrival.

Viewing it from an outside perspective it's going to be a huge feat to keep the team chemistry and performance going with so many changes in the second half of the season but there isn't a better person in Canada to handle that task than Jamie Cudmore, in my opinion.

Coming up next week he has the Canada U20 camp (Jan 3-7) which will include a number of eligible Pacific Pride players, he'll assist Jeff Williams and Adam Roberts and a group of guest coaches to prepare the team for the Portugal tour. It's not certain how many of the Pride players will go on the Portugal tour and that will be a player by player decision in what's best for the player's development and the respective programs. At the same time the Tide/Pride team have a two day camp (Jan 4-5) at Brentwood. So it's positive that starting off the first week of 2020 there will be about 100 elite players within a few miles of each other preparing for top level competitions, one preparing for a Portugal tour and the other group preparing to face two time MLR champions Seattle Seawolves in a preseason match. It's not only the players but the number and quality of coaches that will be involved in these camps as well and Jamie cited that as one of the areas that drives his positive outlook for the men's XVs program.

On the men's XVs program he expects to be involved this summer/fall in the international tests and ARC preparation. He meets on a regular basis with Kingsley Jones and all is positive on that front. He warns that patience is needed and the changes that are happening now and the effects of the Pacific Pride program will take a few years to come to fruition. He reminds me the Pacific Pride Academy is a unique program in North America, a fulltime, professional training environment that exists outside of a professional league structure.

I left that part of the conversation feeling confident that his energy and drive is going to benefit the men's XVs program from U20 to the senior level and that everyone was working together to turn things around.

We talked a bit about the move, it was expensive, the Sin Bin wine concept was sold to a local wine company in France. He noted the quality of the BC wines, he lives close to one of the many Cowichan Valley wineries, and wouldn't discount another foray into the industry further down the road.

His book "Jamie Cudmore: In the Sin Bin (the French Journey)" written by Gavin Mortimer is available now in English. It was first published in French but now the original English manuscript has been made available through Amazon, the paperback is $19, the kindle electronic version is $7.61.

The book starts with his life in Canada as a troubled teen and how rugby has shaped it for the better. In July 1998 he was sentenced to four months in prison for assault. He had a previous assault charge pending from another fight so didn't get out of jail until the spring of 1999. It was a wake-up call. The book goes on to explain in its introduction.
"When mum collected me from prison she had my rugby boots in the back of the car. We drove straight to Trout Lake Park, in East Vancouver, where the Squamish Axemen Rugby club were playing a game.

I walked out of prison and into the dressing room. There was a bit of banter as I got changed, a few wisecracks, but none of the boys passed judgement. I ran out onto the pitch and breathed a sigh of relief. Freedom. Looking back nearly 20 years that was the defining moment of my life. I had a choice when I came out of prison: go straight or go back to jail. Rugby helped me make the right choice"

Finally we talked about the Rugby Safety Network, RSN, a non-profit organization started by Jamie and his wife, Jennifer. It was focused on education around concussions, although Jamie considers that an old-fashioned term, he prefers the term brain injury to be more blunt about the seriousness of the topic and how it should be treated. He feels strongly about the importance of sport, not only rugby, for children and believes education will help allay some of the fears that parents have around sports participation.

Jennifer sent some more information on RSN - they have their first Canadian partners, HeadCheck Health in Vancouver. RSN are registered in Geneva, Switzerland but will be registered in Canada at the end of the month with the help from a former Pride Alumni, Ryan Hamilton. They will be going to Monaco in May as part of the RSN partnership with the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, a team from Shawnigan will be representing Canada at the annual U12 international rugby tournament.

When I asked Jamie if there's anything else he wanted to add, he emphasized that staying positive was important, there's been criticism of Rugby Canada in the past, some of it merited but it's a new start with the Canada U20 program upping it's efforts (with funding from the Canadian Rugby Foundation), with the Pacific Pride being re-established and a strong group of young Canadian coaches pushing forward, he wanted to emphasize remaining positive about the future.

A final quote from Jamie resonated in its simplicity, "if we get some more big, strong, tough kids playing rugby in Canada that will go a long way to making our game a hell of a lot better". It's not rocket science, the concept fits in with recent readers's comments about focusing on growing the grassroots, especially at the younger age groups. JBAA President, John de Goede, wrote a comment that ended with a call that the community "should worry about how many kids below the age of 12 they can get registered at Rugby clubs across the country next year". Marius Felix, the former national team player and Brentwood assistant headmaster mentioned, "young players, need a place to improve and develop" as he called for improved pathways including University level. More players, more pathways, more opportunities - Jamie's story typifies the success story, a young person finds a chance to strap on the rugby boots and take to the field at a critical time in his life in a supportive environment, the rest is history.

Pemberton Holmes
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