Former Cowichan stars give back on the pitch

A pair of Cowichan Secondary School graduates who have gone on to play rugby for Team Canada returned to their old pitch earlier this month.

A pair of Cowichan Secondary School graduates who have gone on to play rugby for Team Canada returned to their old pitch earlier this month to help some of the young players currently going through the program that produced them.

Robin MacDowell, who went on from Cowichan Secondary to spend several years with the national sevens team, held a clinic at the school on Jan. 4 to help the senior boys and girls teams prepare for the 2017 high school season. He was joined by a more recent Cowichan grad and current national sevens player, Patrick Kay, as well as Nanyak Dala, who has multiple caps with both the sevens and XV national teams.

MacDowell stated that he wanted to put on the clinic to help Ron Glass, one of his former coaches, keep up the high standard of rugby at Cowichan Secondary.

“He was such a big influence in my rugby career, not only while I was in high school, but he helped support me for years after I graduated, and I greatly credit him in achieving my dream to represent Canada,” MacDowell said. “He was there at the beginning, saw me through the toughest of challenges, setbacks, and ultimately the successes. He made it OK for me to dream, helped me believe in myself, and was a huge reason I succeeded.  Since my international playing days I have come back every year to work with the T-Birds to give back to my roots and reinforce the proud tradition Ron has built.”

Also involved in the clinic were the North Island Rugby Union and the Cowichan Rugby Football Club, helping to show the students that they have rugby options outside of high school.

MacDowell has played and coached around the world — he currently coaches at the University of Regina and has been involved with the Mexican women’s sevens team for the past four years — but the quality of rugby played at Cowichan Secondary never fails to impress him. He feels there are many athletes with the potential to go farther in the sport.

“I am always blown away about the amount of talent the Cowichan Valley has,” he said. “Rugby is now the fastest growing sport int the country, and I encourage the Valley athletes to pursue rugby post secondary, compete at the university level and fight for a spot on our Olympic teams.”

Kay graduated from Cowichan Secondary in 2011, and made his debut with the national sevens team in 2013, showing the current players how close they can be to reaching the top levels of the sport.

“Having Patrick there was massive for these current Cow High players,” MacDowell said. “Patrick is a born and raised Cowichan athlete and epitomizes what it takes to play rugby at the highest level. He is a great ambassador of our sport locally and internationally. I started working with Patrick when he was in Grade 10 at Cow High; he has the same attitude and approach to the game now as he did when he was just starting out. By seeing a current national team athlete like Patrick, it shows these local kids that they to can do anything they set their heart and mind to.”

Joining MacDowell, Kay and Dala as guest coaches at the clinic were Cowichan Piggies head coach Andrew Wright and captain Jenner Teufel, former Cowichan Secondary captain and current Piggie Andrew Gudmundseth, current Cowichan Secondary assistant coach Craig Lauridsen, and current Frances Kelsey coach Mark Jackson. Sponsors for the event included Melissa Cottam and Moo’s Pizza, Liz and Lance Steward of Just Jake’s, and Mark Bryant of BCRugbynews.com

After more than a decade of working with young athletes across Canada, MacDowell has recently formalized his own rugby academy and mentorship program, inspired by Patrick Kay and his older brother, Thomas, who were the first athletes he worked with. MacDowell will be back on the Island to run camps this summer. For more information, email robin@macdowellrugby.ca