‘You become a family with everyone’: High school coach leading tight knit group of rugby players
Rugby runs in Nathan Tocher’s blood. More specifically, rugby at Sisler High School runs in his blood.
Tocher played rugby for Sisler during his high school days. Now the 39-year-old teaches at the school and coaches all four of its rugby teams, about 70 kids in total.
“I always tell them, if you give me a practice or one game, I guarantee you’ll love it, and usually after the first game they’re hooked for life,” Tocher said.
Tocher’s teams enjoyed major success on the field this past season. His varsity girls team won the city championship while the varsity and junior varsity boys finished second.
Despite rugby being an extremely physical and intense sport, Tocher manages to keep things light-hearted, according to some of his players.
“Mr. Tocher, he’s the reason I started rugby,” said Ethen Ducharme, who’s finishing up his Grade 11 year at Sisler. “When you start to work hard, he starts to get a bit easier. He starts to become more of your friend. He’s a really nice coach.”
Graduating Grade 12 student Mikayla Desaulniers said rugby wasn’t in her plans at all but the coach eventually convinced her to play.
“He’d see me around and be like ‘You’re gonna come out to rugby right?’ And I’d always be like ‘No.'” she said. “Eventually I did come out and he’s the reason I stayed because he made it fun.”
The high school rugby season runs from April to June. Tocher is usually with his players four times a week– two practices and two games.
“You become a family with everyone. So you start playing with people that you kind of didn’t know, you just become a family so you just keep on going and it becomes almost like your life,” Tocher said.
Injuries forced Tocher to stop playing the sport competitively a couple years ago. But the instincts and skills he developed as a player has made his transition to coaching easier.
“Rugby’s one of those sports where you can’t pick up if you don’t know,” he said. “And a lot of people try to, but once you play the game you kind of get a better understanding and it definitely helps me a lot because I understand what the kids are going through.”
After 20 years of coaching the sport, there’s one thing that keeps Tocher coming back.
“The smile on the kids faces, he said. “That’s it. If they weren’t smiling I wouldn’t come back.”
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