Article and photos by 25366 Anna-Michelle Shewfelt
(3 Oct 2019) Wednesday, October 2, being the first Wednesday of the month, saw a small but dedicated group from the Kingston Branch meet at RMC’s Senior Staff Mess for their monthly luncheon. Special guests this month were Darren Cates, RMC’s Director of Athletics; 24974 Richard Lim (RMC 2011), Coach of RMC Men’s Hockey; Patricia Howes, Coach of RMC’s Varsity Fencing; and Sean McDonaugh, Coach of RMC Men’s Rugby. Following the usual mingling over drinks and lunch, each of the guests gave those present a brief rundown of recent accomplishments and challenges in their respective programs.
Darren Cates, as Director of Athletics, spoke first. “This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve been here at these luncheons, so you’ve probably heard me say a lot of the same things,” he joked. “Still, this is an exciting year for us. We’ve had the launch of a new brand, which was two years in the making. In the past we’d had 26 different logos and now we’ve got just the one. And we’ve got a bus with the new logo as well, which gets the brand out and about.”
Cates also touched on changes coming to RMC’s Physical Performance Test (PPT). “It’s one of the oldest PT tests but in light of the Special Staff Assistance Visit (SSAV) we worked with RMC Saint-Jean and what we found is that we can make the test better,” he explained. “When it comes to the science of fitness, for example, we know more now than we did even ten years ago. Sit ups, for instance, are not a healthy body movement. And push-ups involve an extremely subjective evaluation. So last year we trialed the new test and gathered the data and now the Cadets will start that test towards the end of October. This is, however, a transition year. Those who are not successful at passing the new format and can still do the old one.”
Asked what happens when a Cadet consistently doesn’t meet the standard, Cates admitted, “It’s changed over the years.” That being said, “Now if you don’t meet the standard by the end of your Second Year you’re removed from the College. It’s not just a physical performance test. It’s also an occupational readiness exam.” Cates underscored that reality by going on to explain that fitness is now measured as a part of the selection process to come to military college. “The dream is to have a fitness test before the recruits come to college. We’re not there yet but that’s the goal.”
RMC Fencing, as Patricia Howes briefly explained for the Kingston Branch, goes all the way back to 1889. “Fencing has had different roles over the years, from being military training to being a club and a team. Finding space to practice has also been a challenge at times. But overall fencing is a good fit for the College.” As she was also quick to point out, RMC’s very first championship was the women’s team in the early 1980s. Fencing at RMC, however, hasn’t rested on its laurels. “In 2008 we began the process of renovating the Old Gym and combining a heritage building with the needs of the sport of fencing. We now have one of the best fencing salle d’armes in the country. We’re the little engine that could,” Howes joked. “A lot of fencing schools don’t have the resources that we do.” As a result, RMC Fencing is currently third in their league and has consistently been in the top four over the past few years.
RMC’s Men’s Hockey Team, as Richard Lim knows first-hand, has come a long way since 2006 when he came to RMC as a Cadet. “The year before I took over as Coach we went winless. We’ve worked hard to change our culture as a team and now all of our players have prior experience at a high level of hockey. Our first line can compete with any other first line in the league right now.” As Lim went on to describe, alumni involvement has been key in helping turn the team around. “When I was a player here there wasn’t much alumni involvement. It just didn’t happen. I’ve made it a priority. West Point Weekend this year will be huge. I’ve got 35 confirmed alumni coming in already.” Lim closed by looking to the future. “When I come back to this group it will be to talk about our victory in the post-season and, hopefully, building a new rink!” (It should be noted that S125 Bill Oliver, known for his expert hockey prognosticating, has confirmed that RMC will beat West Point this year.)
Sean McDonaugh, Coach of RMC’s Men’s Rugby, closed out the luncheon with a discussion on the challenges RMC’s rugby program faces. “We fill 2 squads for a total of 60 Cadets,” he explained. “And our biggest challenge is how do we find people who are athletes, who want to be in the military, and who can get into RMC?” This challenge is also, as McDonaugh observed, complicated by the reality that most Canadians are not familiar with the College. “It’s not easy. I mean, in 2011, we had more recruit athletes playing for other schools than we did for RMC. We had recruited them but they couldn’t get in.” McDonaugh’s solution has been to find influencers and coaches in rugby “hotspots” across the country who can direct potential players to the College. “We’ve maintained those relationships and now we’ve begun to see results.”
As McDonaugh concluded, rugby as a sport is a perfect fit for the College. “Our sport is not a safe, cuddly environment. You fall down and we’ll pick you up back up so you can fall down again. RMC is the place to learn how to do that.”
The Kingston Branch would like to thank those who made it out for the luncheon and remind everyone that next month’s meeting will be Wednesday 6 November. Speaker is to be confirmed. They’d like to see an even greater turnout than this month!