Coaches in the News – April 2021

A Tale of Two Taits/Tates: Thoughts on Two Good Men and Their Rugby Journeys

[editor’s comments below]

I have to admit when I started BCRN in 2005, I occasionally got the spellings mixed up. Which was Tait and which was Tate again? It didn’t take me long to figure it out. They were (and are) two of my favourite rugby people to meet along the sidelines. They both exuded an honesty and warmth and I was usually met with a wry smile as they anticipated some questions from the “press”.

Both have hit the news lately but for different reasons. Doug Tate is retiring from his UVic coaching position and John Tait is resigning from his Rugby Canada coaching and director role. Doug is getting the full plate of honours from his employer UVic, John is getting the cutlery inserted in his back by his employer, Rugby Canada. That’s the perception from my vantage point anyway.

If you’ve reached this article from some point in the future and don’t know the background stories, here is some reading:

John Tait Current News

Neil Davidson’s article on
“I was not surprised that the investigation, which I had requested to be initiated, concluded that the complaints were all unfounded and did not breach any of RC [Rugby Canada] policies,” Tait said in a statement Monday. “Regardless, I no longer desire to continue as the national team head coach or in the role of high-performance director and have therefore decided to resign.”

Rugby Canada media release
“The investigator noted the conduct described in the complaint reflected the experiences of the 37 NSW7s athletes. However, the investigator determined that the conduct referenced was not behaviour which fell within the policy’s definition of harassment or bullying.”

Doug Tate Current News

Times Colonist article on Doug Tate retirement
UVic head coach Doug Tate is retiring after 27 years at the helm and manager and assistant-coach Rick Farrally after 26 seasons at Tate’s side.

UVic Vikes article on Doug Tate retirement
“I’m going to miss the players, their work capacity and their positive attitudes. I get a kick out of the athletes, how they interact with each other and grow over the years. It’s great to see them go on to give back to the program and the community,” added Tate.

John Tait Career

When first sitting down to write the articles it was intended to be two articles, one covering the situation around John Tait, and to perhaps throw down some wrath on the women’s 7s program and Rugby Canada for the way the situation was handled. The other article was to celebrate Doug Tate’s career. In the end I decided to celebrate both careers, Tate and Tait.

As for the situation with the women’s 7s program, it’s done, there’s no going back, it will change the path for all parties involved. John Tait was exonerated by the report, his behaviour was not defined as harrassment or bullying. The investigator was part of the national Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada. Their Investigation Guidelines are worth a read. The investigator in part has to make a decision on whether the allegations were harassment, abuse of authority or a legitimate exercise of managerial responsibilities. Their guidelines state, “Abuse of authority is a form of harassment. It occurs when an individual misuses the power and authority inherent in his position to endanger a subordinate person’s well-being or position, undermine the person’s performance in that position, threaten the person’s economic livelihood, or influence the person’s career. Abuse of authority should not be confused with the legitimate exercise of managerial responsibilities, even when it involves actions which may be perceived by the subordinate as offensive or improper. It is more than just a flawed administrative decision and even mere errors or omissions would not generally meet the threshold of harassment. Supervisors have the right to manage the workplace in accordance with governing legislation, employment agreements and policies. Similarly in sport, coaches have the right to manage their team in accordance with governing athlete agreements and policies. This includes imposing corrective and/or disciplinary measures, evaluating and managing performance, managing attendance, approving absence requests, among other things. However, the authority conferred upon those designated to manage the workplace or the team is not limitless and supervisors must exercise their authority legitimately and in good faith. The facts gathered during the investigation process must allow an assessment of whether allegations of abuse of authority are founded, whether the behaviour meets the definition of harassment, or whether there is evidence of improper intent on the part of the Respondent.” The allegations apparently failed to meet the definition of abuse of authority or harassment or improper intent so one could conclude they fell under the category of legitimate exercise of managerial responsibility. Rugby Canada have stated it’s not going to release the report which would include the facts of the case including the allegations. So it’s done for now, perhaps after the Olympics information may start to emerge, we’ll see. [ed. since this was written the women’s 7s team issued a statement, we posted and commented on it here.]

John Tait first shows up in our BCRN database in the summer of 2006 when Geraint John and Tait were scouting the Rugby Canada Super League matches. Geraint was the Director of Rugby Canada and John was assistant men’s XVs coach, Ric Suggitt was head coach. In 2007 he was at the men’s World Cup as Assistant Coach to Ric Suggitt, Glen Ella was also an Assistant Coach that year.

In 2008 he was scrum coach when Canada took on the French Barbarians. In 2009 he was working under Kieran Crowley as Assistant Coach, Morgan Williams was the Skills Coach. Canada crushed USA 41-18 in the second leg of their home and away World Cup qualifier in Edmonton. Canada would go on to the 2011 World Cup as Americas #1.

In 2010 Rugby Canada were sharpening the knives. Both John Tait and Morgan Williams were axed from their coaching roles under the guise of “Restructuring”.

By 2011 John Tait was back with Rugby Canada at the helm of the Women’s 7s program as they entered the Amsterdam 7s, Maria Gallo was his assistant. One of the players on that team was Ghislaine Landry.

The World Series for women started in 2012 and John Tait has been the coach from the beginning, amassing a 70% win percentage. Finishing the series in 2nd place twice, 3rd place five times and 4th once.

In 2012 Ghislaine Landry won the 7s Player of the Year from Rugby Canada, the photo below show coach John Tait presenting the award. On the men’s side, Sean Duke was the recipient with Geraint John doing the presentation.

In 2012 he was also helping locally with the national women’s XVs program, he helped organize the East v West match in Langford. Competing coaches were Sandro Fiorino (West) vs Colette McAuley (East).

In 2013 he was helping Gary Dukelow run his Shawnigan Lake Youth Summer Camps and was the lead coach. In 2014 he was scouting the University 7s championships for upcoming players. As a Canadian head coach he was invested in identifying talent from youth to university which is why the program he built was so successful, and will be for years to come. Generally a Canadian head coach will build a program, an off-shore coach will do the specific task he’s paid for. There are exceptions, as with Damian McGrath who was a gem, but Rugby Canada has a habit of dealing poorly with quality people who exhibit that troubling trait called “honesty”.

In 2014 Tait again was helping out with the women’s XVs program. In the CanAm series he was Technical Director working with a team of Francois Ratier, head coach and assistant coaches, Colette McAuley and Gary Dukelow.

In 2015 the program had a bit of a dip when they placed 6th at the local Langford 7s tournament. We noted our thought that the exclusion of Magali Harvey from selection was a mistake. That observation may have had deeper implications when we look back on it. Harvey was left off the Olympic team and Tait’s willingness to “drop the star” if he thought it would lead to better team chemistry and performance may have lingered in the memory of the current senior players. There would be no “safe positions” for Olympic selection.

Another insight into the competitive nature of the coach and his striving for excellence came at the Youth Olympic Games in 2015. Canada came second to Australia, in congratulating the team he also mentioned on Twitter, “still need to really improve player and comp pathways to sustain success beyond Rio & WC17”. He was not alone another iconic Canadian coach, Francois Ratier, tweeted “let’s keep working hard to change 2nd to 1st”.

The question arises, do we want our coaches to strive for Gold and, in the process, push the athletes towards the breaking point or is Bronze (or lower) sufficient and focus on a less stressful training environment? There will be a lot of interest in how the women’s 7s program performs at the Olympics with a drop-in coach of their choosing.

In February 2016 Canada place 2nd in the Sao Paulo tournament in Brazil as the world looked towards the Olympics, they were still behind Australia and New Zealand in the standings. In August 2016 at the Olympics they did finish 3rd, losing to Australia in the semis and defeating Great Britain in the Bronze medal match.

By the fall of 2016 Tait has chosen his “carded” players for the upcoming 2016-17 season and the next Olympic cycle, 2020, or the way it worked out, 2021. Several of the key players from that list have retired, Jen Kish and Ashley Steacy, but almost all of the current squad are on the list. Karen Paquin and Elissa Alarie subsequently returned from the XVs program.

Carded Players 2016-17

Olivia Apps, Aurora Barbarians (Lindsay, ON)
Brittany Benn, Guelph Redcoats (Napanee, ON)
Pamphinette Buisa, Ottawa Irish (Gatineau, QC)
Emma Chown, Kingston Panthers (Barrie, ON)
Caroline Crossley, Castaway Wanderers (Victoria, BC)
Hannah Darling, Peterborough Pagans (Warsaw, ON)
Sophie De Goede, Castaway Wanderers (Victoria, BC)
Bianca Farella, Town of Mont Royal RFC (Montreal, QC)
Ashley Gordon, Brampton Beavers (Brampton, ON)
Julia Greenshields, Sarnia Saints (Sarnia, ON)
Emmanuela Jada, Guelph Redcoats (Guelph, ON)
Sara Kaljuvee, Toronto Scottish (Ajax, ON)
Jen Kish, Edmonton Rockers (Edmonton, AB)
Ghislaine Landry, Toronto Scottish (Toronto, ON)
Kaili Lukan, Unattached(Barrie, ON)
Megan Lukan, Unattached (Barrie, ON)
Kayla Moleschi, Williams Lake Rustlers (Williams Lake, BC)
Breanne Nicholas, London St. Georges (Blenheim, ON)
Irene Patrinos, Ottawa Irish (Mississauga, ON)
Denise Roy, Castaway Wanderers (Duncan, BC)
Erika Scott, Ormstown Saracens (Dewittville, QC)
Ashley Steacy, Lethbridge Rugby Club (Lethbridge, AB)
Tia Svoboda, Belleville Bulldogs (Belleville, ON)
Natasha Watcham-Roy, (Gatineau, QC)
Charity Williams, Markham Irish (Toronto, ON)

In April 2017 the team was peaking, they defeated Australia 33-0 in the semis at Kitakyushu, Japan and just lost to New Zealand by 3 points in the final, 14-17. Tait is quoted at the tournament, “That is some of the best rugby we’ve ever played”. They repeated their 2nd place finish at the next tournament in Langford but finished 3rd overall that season. They dipped for a bit in 2018 finishing 4th overall but came back with a 3rd overall in 2018-19 and 2nd overall in the most recent series which was shortened by COVID after 5 tournaments.

There’s not much more to add about his winning coaching record and his involvement with the local rugby community. He’s a very popular figure in Canadian rugby. We wish him all the best in his next endeavour, at 47, he has another solid 20+ years to offer the rugby coaching profession. The next Tate we’ll consider, Doug, spent over 25 years with UVic before retiring, for the second time, this spring.

Doug Tate Career

Doug Tate (and assistant Rick Farrally) were scheduled to retire in 2020 but COVID prompted UVic to cancel the job posting and ask Doug and Rick to stay on another year. So now that we’re in 2021 Doug has retired, apparently successfully this time.

Doug first shows up in our database in 2009 with the national men’s 7s team. He was manager of the Canadian team heading to Dubai for the World Cup. Coaching the team were Shane Thompson and Kieran Crowley.

SEVENS – 2009 Team for Rugby World Cup, Dubai

Ciaran Hearn / Conception Bay, Nfld / Castaway-Wanderers
Bryn Keys / Abbotsford, BC / Velox Valhallians
Adam Kleeberger / Victoria, BC / University of Victoria
Jordan Kozina / Brantford, ON / University of Victoria
Philip Mackenzie / Oakville, ON / University of Victoria
Philip Mack / Victoria, BC / James Bay AA
Neil Meechan / Victoria, BC / University of Victoria
Justin Mensah-Coker / Vancouver, BC / Plymouth Albion RFC
James Pritchard / Bedford, UK / Bedford RFC
Gordie Sawers / West Vancouver / University of Victoria
DTH van der Merwe / Regina, SK / James Bay AA
Morgan Williams / Victoria, BC / James Bay AA

Kieran Crowley / Shane Thompson – Coach
Manager – Doug Tate
Physiotherapist – Chris May

He was quietly doing his thing behind the Vikes bench and next shows up in 2012 when Andrew Smith wrote up an excellent preseason look at the BC Premier. He contacted each coach for their opinions and this is what Doug Tate had to add.

Coaches perspective – Doug Tate: “The premier league will be a real challenge for the Vikes this season and will give a lot of young players the opportunities they need to develop. I felt last year the Premier teams were very talented and every game was a struggle for us at times. Many of our players are a year older and I think they will be much better prepared to compete against the more physical teams. The challenge will be all the representative players being away at key times in the schedule but we are looking forward to the season getting started.”

Key additions: Adam Kleeberger, Jamie McKenzie, Fergus Hall, Nathan Yanagiya, Jeff Nishma-Miller, Haydn Evans

Key returnees: Nathan Hirayama, Phil Mack, Jake Ilnicki, Tony LaCarte, Casey Reed, Beau Parker, Sean Duke, Patrick Kay

Key departures: Brett Beukeboom, Michael Fuailefau, Struan Robertson

Also in 2012 UVic defeated the Canada U20 team in a warmup match which prompted this editorial comment, “Maybe it is time to turn the U20 program over to the universities, UVic is probably the best university program in the country, Doug Tate probably one of the best university coaches in the country.”

Doug was always interested in finding playing opportunities for the incoming university players who weren’t quite at the stage of making the varsity squad. He, along with others, like UBC’s Curry Hitchborn, tried getting a BC U20 league going in 2013.

There was always the rivalry with UBC and the Wightman Boot was awarded to the winner of a home and away series. UVic had owned that trophy for many years in recent times, 17 years straight to be exact, until 2014 when UBC reclaimed the trophy.

Doug also helped with the BC Elite Youth 7s program, in 2014 he was team manager with Shane Thompson as coach. Doug’s son, Morgan, also started making appearances in the BCRN database. He was on the UVic second team in 2014, the Norsemen, when they made their appearance in the Provincial Div 1 championship. By 2015 Morgan was on the Premier squad, the Vikes, playing at #9 with Grady Bowd at #10 and some other familiar names, Guiseppe du Toit, Isaac Kaay and Luke Bradley.

Morgan’s name dominated the Tate entries for the next few years as he remained a starter on the Vikes, playing #10 as well. It’s a reflection on Doug’s style in retrospection – that he made the news through his teams’ accomplishments.

In our 2016 BCRN Year End Awards we selected Doug the Sevens Coach of the Year:

SEVENS COACH OF THE YEAR AWARD (Men): The University of Victoria’s Head Coach Doug Tate wins as Canada’s top coach in the short game. After his team’s fourth straight national title it was absolutely clear that Tate would be BCRN’s Sevens Coach of the Year.

Doug had an eye for talent and knack for the understatement, when reflecting on John Moonlight’s 7s career which included a brief internship at UVic he had this to say in 2018 when John Moonlight retired from the national 7s team, “We knew we had a rough diamond back then but it didn’t take much polishing for him to become a major force in the game. Everyone knew that was the case and it wasn’t long until John was off on his first sevens trip to Hong Kong.”

The UVic program under Doug Tate, along with the UBC program have been the cornerstones of the national men’s U20 program. In 2018 after Canada U20 defeated USA U20, 9 tries to 3, with all 9 tries being scored by UVic and UBC players, we made this comment, “these two BC university programs are the crown of the U20 program, no doubt about it, so kudos to those coaches, Curry Hitchborn and Rameses Langston and Doug Tate and Rick Farrally. Couldn’t do it without you.”.

When the University Championships started in XVs, Doug Tate’s UVic team was always in the hunt for Gold. They finished behind UBC the first two years but came out on top in the last tournament before COVID hit, defeating two time champions UBC 21-20.

That’s a good place to wrap up Doug’s career, on a winning note. We’ll missing seeing him, and Rick, behind the goal area at Wallace field when rugby gets back in action. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Posted in Coaching, Editorials.