2015 NSCRO Men’s 7s National Champion Hopes for a Winning Streak
New Mexico Highlands University looking to defend its title
Philadelphia, Penn. — May 13, 2016 —After losing to the New England College Lions in the 2014 championship match, the New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU Vatos came back to win first place the following year and its coach is confident they can do it.
“This small college team can play with the big boys. We’re better than last year. We’re a lot better than last year,” said the Vatos’ Head Coach, Earnest Richard “Dick” Greene. “Every year the quality of the rugby at the [Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship] and the athleticism and the fitness levels of rugby- everybody’s getting better at it. I don’t want to say it’ll turn into a varsity sport, but folks are just realizing it’s a game of fitness and intelligence and not a game of knocking people over.”
NMHU’s rugby team has been around since 1991 and was founded by Coach Greene. Since the school has a student body of only 500 undergraduate men, the rugby team makes up six percent of all males and three percent of all students. However the club has only focused on 15s throughout its history, until three years ago when it added a 7s program and proceeded to win the NSCRO Championship.
NMHU team captain Kevon Williams attributes’ Greene’s coaching approach as a major influence on the team’s accomplishments. Rather than be on the field during matches, Greene stays in the stands and puts the responsibility on the actual players.
“They have to be thoughtful and mindful and adapt- it’s an educational process, it’s not all about winning and loosing. I mean we sure like to win but a good rugby game is: Who cares who wins, it’s when the whistle blew and you can’t play anymore- that’s a quality game,” said Greene.
It originally took Williams a while to get used to this, having played four years of collegiate football at the university. When he started at NMHU, Williams focused on biology, but in his senior year swapped to computer science, which required another year of school. By that point he had used all of his eligibility as of a football player and was ready to try something new. After a semester of playing he became a Vatos captain and started learning about Greene’s coaching style.
“That just made me get on my horse and start learning the game more and watching more film. Now if he was to step in and say something I’d kind of think it was awkward, and that he just needs to let me have my time and talk to the team because I understand where he’s coming from now,” explained Williams, who got an offer to play for PRO Rugby North America but turned it down to finish school.
A further testament to the team’s success is the amount of NMHU players who participate above the collegiate level. Currently the Denver Barbarian’s Rugby Club, a prestigious Division II team, has five members from the New Mexico-based school. Although Greene, a professor of Engineering and Biology, always focuses on his team being made up of “student-athletes.”
“We win 80% of our games and we graduate 80% of our kids and that’s huge. I’m more proud of the second number than the first,” he explained.
About United World Sports:
United World Sports (UWS) is the largest commercial rugby entity in the United States, and the owner and operator of a growing portfolio of dynamic sports, media and apparel brands including, the USA Sevens Rugby international tournament, the largest professional rugby event in North America; the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, the premier college 7s rugby championship; and the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Championship, the 15s national rugby championship. Through its apparel division, UWS owns the exclusive North and South American license for Rhino Rugby, one of the world’s leading rugby apparel and equipment brands. UWS also owns and operates RugbyToday.com, the largest and most widely read media destination dedicated to American rugby. For more information about UWS and its properties, visit: http://www.unitedworldsports.com.
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