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Getting to know your U SPORTS coaches: Mike Cavanagh, StFX X-Women


Throughout the 2017-18 season, U SPORTS sits down with one key athlete, coach, and staff member of each U SPORTS athletic program in our new interview series “Getting to know…”

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Name:  Mike Cavanagh

School:  St. Francis Xavier University

Sport:  Women’s rugby

Position:  Head coach

Seniority:  19th season

Hometown:  Montreal, Que.


1.    How did you first get involved in coaching? What was your path to your position as head coach of X-Women Rugby? 

When I finished playing rugby, I realized that I wanted to stay involved in the sport, so I decided I would try coaching.  For the position at StFX, I received a phone call from the men’s rugby coach Ed Carty who let me know that they were starting a women’s rugby varsity program and he asked if I would be interested in coaching.  I jumped at the opportunity. That was in 1999 and I have been here ever since and enjoying it.

2.    Who are the people that have influenced you most as a coach?

My former coach John Davies, who coached me when I played Nova Scotia U20, has had the biggest influence.

3.    How would you describe your coaching style?

I think my players would say that I am a pretty laid back coach and not one for big speeches or excitement. I try to keep things light in practice and during games I observe and tend to get right to the point on any issues.

4.    Which coach do you admire the most, and why?

It would be John Davies, my former U20 coach. He was the first coach who taught me that rugby wasn’t always about winning, and he opened my eyes to the social and comradery aspect of the sport.

5.    What is the most “out-of-the-box” thing you’ve done as a coach?

I’m not really an out-of-the-box type of coach, but I guess it would be making big position changes right before games at the national championship. I have put in a new player at a position who’ve never played there right before a national championship game, but we won so it paid off!

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6.    What is your greatest coaching moment or achievement? 

Winning our first U SPORTS national championship in 2006 and also winning the national championship on our home field in 2012 was pretty memorable.

7.    What’s the best advice you can give to an athlete and/or athlete’s parents? 

All the hard work is done before you walk onto the field.

8.    How have you changed as a coach over time? What principles/values etc. have remained the same?

I think the biggest change would be adapting with new technology. There was no game film when I first started coaching. Now, video analysis has become an integral part of game preparation. I would say my principles and values of hard work, commitment and respect have remained with me throughout my coaching career.

9.    What do you enjoy doing when you’re not in coaching mode? 

I enjoy reading and travelling when I am away from coaching.