A new Rugby XV’s season is quickly approaching. College kids are returning to school. Senior sides are closing out their Rugby 7s season and opening up training camp for the 2015-2016 season. With the teams prepping for the start of the season, new faces will be entering into the mix.
In Alexandria, Louisiana, a sleepy central Louisiana town, rugby is about to open new territories for them. Earlier this year, Louisiana State University’s Alexandria Campus approved the creation of a university funded rugby program. This endeavor was enacted by LSU-Alexandria chancellor, Dr. Daniel Howard. Dr. Howard, who has been described as “one of the most passionate fans of rugby”, was the former chancellor at Arkansas State University. The university that is home to the Arkansas State Red Wolves Rugby side, a team notorious in American rugby community for their elite level of collegiate rugby play. On May 2015, Howard directed his attention in-state and hired long time UL-Lafayette Rugby head coach, Boyd LeJeune, to help pilot the new program.
LeJeune has been a big fixture in the collegiate rugby environment in south Louisiana and is no stranger to building collegiate rugby programs from the ground up. Having coached at UL from 2005 – 2014, LeJeune racked up an impressive record, winning more than 80% of his matches, coaching the team to multiple conference titles and sweet 16 playoff spots, including one win away from a national title spot. LeJeune did this while also guiding the program from a division III program to a division II rugby program. Despite all the success that LeJeune has had, he still a firm believer that while statistical accolades are great to achieve, the positive influence that he can have on the athletes he coaches is his top priority.
“I’m passionate about being a character builder. I want to help these kids develop leadership skills, and provide them with the things that lead them to being successful in life.”
LeJeune is bringing the same mindset and coaching style to LSU-Alexandria that made him successful and beloved in Lafayette. As a result he has made it his mission to bring in diverse, high character athletes to play for the team. This is a benefit for the cohesion of the team, but also an asset for the city of Alexandria. For the city, with a population under 50,000, and a university enrollment of just under 3000 people, this new injection of life is expected to have an impact on the local community. LeJeune has been working to recruit athletes from all over the world. While it has not prevented him from recruiting in-state, LeJeune has traveled around to recruit and offer scholarships to kids from major rugby beds like New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and South Africa, as well as less auspicious rugby locales like Hawaii and Trinidad and Tobago. Domestically, LeJeune has worked to attract athletes that may not have considered Louisiana to be an option for college, but with the new opportunity, has sparked the interest of kids from as far as Oregon and Montana.
The new rugby program will look to mimic its training regimen to that of a rugby Olympic sports academy. Focusing on nutrition and conditioning will be key to the progress of the team. LSU-Alexandria will provide the new rugby program with three new Rugby fields that are expected to be breaking ground shortly. For the time being, the rugby team will be playing on fields located near the Alexandria International Airport.
As LSU-Alexandria Rugby begins its climb, look forward to watching rugby take another step closer to mainstream publicity.
“I want to get kids a four-year college education and they are for that. That’s everything. I want them to build trust with their teammates. To win games is the outcome that we want, but if we can be successful in building kids for everything, not just the game, then that is where our real success is.”
LSU Alexandria is looking to open up their first season in NSCRO. The excitement and investment by LeJeune and Howard will hopefully give the program a chance to grow, a city to embrace them, and a university that can only hope to see new opportunities arise from it.
To find out more information about LSU-Alexandria Rugby contact Boyd LeJeune at BLeJeune@LSUA.com