Question number one: What comes to mind when you hear the term “rugby?” An accurate description for most would be somewhat of a hybrid mix between soccer and football in which two opposing teams attempt to score goals by touching the rugby ball into the try zone, the equivalent of the end zone in American football.
Next question: Describe the typical rugby player. Big, burly, hulk-like, colossal, fierce, solid; all accurate adjectives, which most would agree with.
Question number three: How many women do you know from rural Pennsylvania who are trained in the martial arts, are currently working as a Ph.D candidate in the Criminology, Law and Society Department here at UCI and were recently named the head coach of the UC Irvine Men’s Rugby team?
Allow me to introduce you to Kate Henne.
In December of last year, a few guys from the men’s rugby team were searching for a new head coach after their team agreed that their current head coach was no longer working well with the players. Henne, who had volunteered as an assistant coach since the winter of 2006, was approached by the team and asked if she would like serve on the squad in a different capacity.
“Kate really focuses on the science behind rugby. For example, looking at our own well-being, watching our diet and working on our fitness,” Vice-Captain Stuart West, an undergraduate exchange student from England, said.
This was different than what the team was focusing on before where they were only looking at the 80 minutes that were played on the field.
“It’s no longer just about wanting to win with Coach Henne, but working on ourselves as individuals and as a team” Joseph Knox, a criminology major, remarked.
After accepting the head coaching position, Henne wanted to ensure that her team understood her approach to the game and her role as a leader. Behind any successful coach lies a successful coaching philosophy. For Henne, her philosophy is player-centered. She believes that with a player-centered team the leadership will come organically to the natural leaders on the pitch. She does not see herself as a leader, but more of a supporter.
“My job is to help the guys find better ways to lead and more positive ways to lead,” Henne, who won a Division II Nationals title in her senior year at Temple University, said.
This should not imply that Henne is a passive coach wh is simply providing moral support to her team. She is committed to making sure the guys understand their capacity and reach their potential. Just consider the difference when describing how a typical practice concludes from the players’ perspective compared to that of Henne.
Coach Henne would tell you that a typical practice ends with a cool down stretch in which the officers and captains would have the opportunity to talk to the team and revisit their goals. The players, on the other hand, would describe the intense conditioning that they usually end practice with which is summed up simply as “hellish.”
But the team is not complaining. They respect their coach and understand that if they want to be successful, they need to put in the work.
“We are working really hard this season and pushing ourselves to new extremes,” Captain Merrick Brodsky said. “The team not only works on their dynamic on the field but off the field as well and we owe a lot of that to our coach.”
UC Irvine opened up the season with a huge victory over Pepperdine on Friday night, with their A-Team winning 40-11 and the B-Team winning 7-5.
Both Henne and the team are very optimistic about the season and are still open to recruitment.
And for those of you who are upset that UCI does not have a football team, I’ll do you one better: we’ve got a group of gentleman who can do the same thing those guys do … minus the pads.