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Dynasty
Building 101

So you’ve won a
championship. Big
deal. Try winning
five in a row. Then
come talk to us.

Photos by Adrien Veczan

By Patrick Soltysiak

When Seneca’s rugby coach, Bob McArthur, first started at the college nine years ago, only 22 players showed up for the tryout. Two seasons later, he was hoisting the OCAA championship trophy over his head – the first of five in a row.

The Seneca Sting have captured nine medals in nine years, including five straight golds.

“Once we started winning, we were getting more people showing up for the trials at the beginning of the season and that certainly helped,” McArthur says. “Success breeds more success. So players show up, they want to be part of it, and we just go from there.”

But he is being modest. Great, consistent coaching is the key to success at the college level. A coach’s reputation and leadership skills build dynasties.

“If you don’t have a competent coach and a motivated coach, you’re not going to be anywhere close to an elite team,” says Algonquin’s longtime athletic director Ron Port.

His soccer team won four gold and two silver medals at the provincials in the past six years and he attribues those victories to good coaching. Stephen O’Kane led the squad for the last four years, before moving up to a professional team, the Ottawa Fury of the Professional Development League. Now he’s been replaced by Mike Caruso.

“They’ve done wonders not only for the program, but for themselves, by developing into really good coaches and able to attract really good athletes,” says Port of the two former coaches.

Good coaching helps recruit top players, which is crucial in a college setting where the average lifespan of an athlete is between two and three years, he says.

“If you do have a very competent coach, who’s very quickly known within the sporting community, that’s what does all your recruiting for you,” Port says.

To help their coaches with recruitment, colleges try to make their programs as appealing as possible.

“We really dress the program up and people get to know that our program’s a quality program,” says Doug Fox, who’s been Humber College’s athletic director for 18 years. “We try and build the best schedule we can with trips and tournaments,” he says. “The college has a good reputation as well for academics.”

Germain Sanchez, Humber’s indoor soccer coach who has led the team to eight OCAA championships in the last 10 years, agrees.

“If you offer them a good program, guys will want to come back. They will want to be part of it. That means having good practices, good organization on the team, having fun practices . . . It’s the teamwork.”

“He consistently brings in good players, he’s a good coach,” Fox says. “His demeanor with the players is very good, he stays positive; I attribute most of that success to him.”

McArthur agrees. “It’s about organization, keeping it simple . . . I don’t know how to do motivational speeches at halftime. I just try and remind them about the things that we’ve done in training, and try and get them to

focus on the simple things, because at its most basic level, rugby’s a pretty simple game.”

Teamwork is very important and anything that might disrupt it McArthur frowns upon.

“One of the things I detest is players berating other players during a game.” He says it’s better when a teammate pats another on the back and says “Come on, let’s get it next time,” rather than shouting at each other and calling each other idiots. It builds team spirit.

If someone gets out of line and screams at a teammate, McArthur does not berate them in public, again to keep up that team spirit.

“I’d rather walk up to some guy and sort of take him away,” he says. “Even if it was just 10 or 15 feet away from everybody else, and quietly say to him ‘Don’t you ever do that again. You wouldn’t like it if it happened to you, so he doesn’t like it.’ And generally speaking I only have to tell them once, because then they get it.”

The flip side of the dynasty discussion can be just as perilous because the one thing harder than winning is losing.

"You try and learn from it, you try and learn from mistakes. You try and see what didn't go the way you'd hoped and see if there's something you can revise,” McArthur says.

Though he maintains his formula will not change despite the outcome, McArthur has had the bitter taste of defeat coming in second in the ’01-02 and ’03-04 seasons. He seems to use the losses not as examples of failure but as inspiration for improvement, “you're upset by losing, but it's the sort of thing that keeps bringing you back. I try to find the positive in it and deal with that."

“When you win, you expect to win,” Fox says. “It’s hard to beat a team who’s won, because the other team is thinking ‘Oh what are they going to do to us this time? What’s going to happen?’”