Saturday, May 9, 2015

I Am Ohio Rugby: John English and Ohio Wesleyan University

When people think think of rugby in the area of the state's capital, a few names generally come to mind. One program that might not jump to the forefront is Ohio Wesleyan. Though they are a lesser-known competitor for the moment, they stand to make a bigger name for themselves as their men's and women's side begin to achieve higher levels of success.
Ohio Wesleyan University Rugby logo

The men and women that comprise the college program are young and a bit inexperienced, but what they lack in overall knowledge and time on the pitch they make up for hard work a quality leadership. The man at the head of the OWU program is John English, who might be better known for his success with another rugby team in the area - the Westerville Worms. English came on board as the coach for the men's team in 2014 but it wasn't long before he was making moves and changes in personnel.

"I started coaching the men's program at OWU midway through the spring of 2014," he said. "Then took over as Director of Rugby for both the men's and women's programs in the fall 2015. At that point, I brought on Cody Albright to head up the men's program, Josh Longenbaker to head the women's program. I also added Patrick Bowling as our pack coach."

In the short time that English and his staff have been in charge, things been going very much their way. Both teams have added players to their ranks, with the men having nearly 30 players on their roster now. The growth in numbers has translated to success on the field as well. During the fall season, the men's 15s went 3-3 and improved every week,whereas the women went a perfect 5-0. Unfortunately, the ladies had to forfeit a pair of matches during fall break and those two lossess kept them out of postseason competition. The spring sevens scene for the men went a bit better, as they took fifth place at Grove City Sevens, second at Penn State Berks Sevens and were crowned champions of their own Middleton Hopps Bishop Cup Sevens Tournament. The spring sevens circuit was kind to the women as well. Again they went unbeaten, ending with a perfect 9-0 record. They won their league and received an automatic bid to NSCRO Sevens National tournament. Their success stopped once they got to nationals, though. The women also took top honors at the Middleton Hopps Bishop tournament.
John English and the OWU Rugby
coaching staff

The on-field success has garnered the club a great deal of respect off the field as well. Recently, the powers that be at the school took notice of the hard work put on by the players and coaches and showed their support.

"There has been great support for the rugby program from everyone at OWU, from the President all the way down. The university does a great job of recognizing the success of the players and program as a whole," English said. "Both programs were awarded 'We Are OWU' awards for recognition of being a positive club of the university. University President Rock Jones even came to our home sevens tournament to support the teams."

This success is far from a fluke. English has been coaching for over 20 years and has helped develop some of the best rugby talent to come out of the area and taking the Worms to the national tournament three times over. This experience and proven success record combined with his other coaches can only mean good things for the future of the program. According to English, the atmosphere of the university and the type of students it attracts lends a lot to the team having success.

" OWU is a great university. The students there have great character, work ethic and strive to be the best on and of the field," he said. "The thing that stands out to me is how diverse the university is. On the men's team alone I have players from Japan, Thailand, Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan and Jamaica, along with players from all over the USA."

In the near future, English sees his program becoming the best in its division. For now, their mission of conquest has stalled out. Most of English'e players will return home during the warmer months and reconvene for the fall. Those who stay will play for men's and women's teams in the Columbus area.

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