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Women’s Rugby

Getting to know your U SPORTS coaches: Neil Langevin, Lethbridge Pronghorns

U SPORTS Staff

U SPORTS sits down with one key athlete, coach, and staff member of each U SPORTS athletic program in our interview series “Getting to know…”

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  • Name: Neil Langevin
  • School: University of Lethbridge
  • Sport: Women’s rugby
  • Position: Head coach
  • Seniority: 19 years
  • Hometown: Sparwood, B.C.

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

As a high school senior, I coached Grade 9 girls volleyball. In Lethbridge, I coached junior high, senior high and  the Lethbridge Rugby club men’s team. I was also involved provincially with junior teams with Rugby Alberta for a number of years and offered to help at the university with a coach from New Zealand when the University of Lethbridge started a program. He subsequently retuned to New Zealand for a position with Manawatu Rugby Union, the girls were left without a coach and I stepped in to fill the gap.

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

My high school volleyball coach, Dr. Hugh Twa showed me the possibilities in coaching. My high school rugby coach Jim Vallance showed me the value of honesty, hard work and passion. Tim Rollingson showed me so much about coaching, as we coached high school basketball. Ric “Sluggo” Suggitt was larger than life and was main mentor for about 20 years. I need to mention the positive effect that so many teaching colleagues on my coaching.

3. How would you describe your coaching style?

I try to ensure that athletes are reflective, honest and work together in a collaborative manner ensuring we all do our roles well. Daily self improvement is the goal and can be accomplished through hard work, reflections and attention to detail. Individual self esteem is important within the team context.

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

It changes day to day. I’m so impressed with youth coaches, high school coaches and provincial coaches who provide the basis of fun and skills for players. I admire national team coaches  John Tait and Damian Magrath, as their players speak so highly of their character. I’m also really proud of the all the women who coach in Canada, we have a solid core of potential.

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

I’ve had the privilege of coaching with Sluggo, so nothing I have ever done seems out of the box! 

6. What is your greatest coaching moment or achievement?

While I have been fortunate enough to lead Rugby Canada’s national team to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup and winning three consecutive U SPORTS national championships, my favourite moment was the very first win for the Pronghorns. We were a new team form a small school on the Prairies competing against the schools from B.C. Our first conference win was against UBC and is my favourite coaching moment.

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

Ensure that your self esteem is not tied concretely to your playing time or achievement in sport, you are more than an athlete. Embrace feedback and thrive in your role, it helps you grow. 

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

I am a way nicer and empathetic guy having have had the pleasure of coaching so many fabulous women who have shown me a “better” way to coach and live my life.

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

Spending time with my family and friends. Fly fishing in streams for trout is a great way for me to recharge my energy.

10. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you as a coach?

Having a discussion with a referee in France about front row subs, and to figure out in the middle of the conversation that I was completely mistaken and wasn’t close to understanding the rules.