New Mexico Tech Rugby Begins New Era

New Mexico Tech Rugby Begins New Era

SOCORRO, N.M. – The New Mexico Tech rugby team upheld the tradition of success this fall, clinching the top collegiate spot in the Santa Fe 10s tournament. And they did so with a new person at the helm. Taking over the head coach position from recently retired Dave Wheelock is Brent Nourse, an El Paso native returning to the Southwest after three decades in the Seattle area. Nourse attributed the NMT good fortune in Santa Fe to the skills and winning culture established by Wheelock during his 19-year tenure.

Wheelock himself took the helm of the club, established in 1973, from Herb Howell, former USA collegiate rugby chair with previous coaching success in Britain. Tech’s first non-playing coach was Shannon Robinson, whom built a strong foundation for success.

“Not only did Robinson work with the university to establish a permanent coaching position and ample level of financial support for the club, but helped to ensure that NMT has one of the best pitches (fields) in the state,” faculty advisor Taylor Dotson said.

The combination of support from the physical recreation department – led by director Melissa Begay – superior coaching, and quality training equipment has allowed the New Mexico Tech team to punch well above their weight. The team regularly records victories against teams from the University of Texas at El Paso and New Mexico State, in addition to providing strongly competitive matches against fellow New Mexico powerhouses UNM and Highlands University.

“While the intensive coursework required at New Mexico Tech often prevents full practice participation, our disciplined minds and never-quit attitude quite plainly translate to the way they compete” Wheelock said. “As residents of a small university, they have a tight-knit culture that allows them to play for each other.” 

Notwithstanding New Mexico Tech Rugby’s history of success, new head coach Nourse still sees room for improvement.

“The game of rugby is constantly evolving. While we have a fantastic base in skill and knowledge, there will always be a need to improve and evolve with the game.  Even the best teams in the world – Ireland, England, New Zealand – are continually adjusting their styles of play and techniques, and honing their skills, to meet the demands of the ever-changing game,” Nourse said.

Nourse’s innovative style works best with large player numbers at practices. Having graduated a number of their more senior players over the last years, the new coach and club officers are expanding their recruitment efforts. A large part of their work involves dispelling myths about club sport participation and the sport of rugby itself.

“A lot of students fail to recognize that team sport involvement is actually complementary to their success in the classroom. Studies find that participation in a sport helps students develop time management skills and maintain their mental health. There’s good reason to believe that the improved work-life balance offered by club sport participation improves academic performance,” Dotson said.

“Rugby has a reputation of being a tough sport. However, with proper technique it can be as safe as activities like soccer. Even NFL and Division I college teams are learning from rugby regarding how to tackle more safely,” Wheelock said.

Nourse said, “In fact, the Seattle Seahawks and University of Washington Huskies receive tackling training from professional rugby coaches associated with the local rugby clubs and companies like Atavus Rugby.”

Wheelock said, “Rugby is a game for people of all shapes and sizes and is played by both men and women. The United States women’s team recently placed fourth in the World Cup held in Ireland. We’ve got 140-pound wingers, 250-plus-pound props, and nearly every body type in between.”

Nourse said, “More importantly, rugby is a culture of sportsmanship, friendship, and good natured, but hard competition. Any rugger can walk into any rugby club in the world, and have a room full of friends.”

The Pygmies practice from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, meeting also on Thursdays on non-game weeks and Fridays when a match is scheduled.


-- NMT --