Les is back!
Les Davidson was at the helm for the RMC varsity rugby squad, then called the Redmen, from 1989 to 1995. He began his coaching career with the Toronto Nomads in 1981. Along the way he has coached: Kingston Panthers; Queens University; and various teams in Florida & North Carolina and other parts of the U.S.A. over a 15 year span.
He is a two time OUA coach of the year – 1989 his first season with RMC and at Queen’s in 1996.
This time around he will be an assistant coach under the direction of of long-time head coach, Sean McDonaugh.
Les started playing serious rugby at Scotland’s Duncanrig Secondary School in 1961. He kept playing at a high level; some years for two different teams in the same season until 1987. He was also a ‘playing’ coach for Toronto Nomads 1981-1987.
In his ‘other’ life, Les, has had a very successful and extensive career as an IT professional in government, education and business sectors.
In addition to rugby he has a highly respected reputation for his community involvement as both a soccer and track coach.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Les:
What are your memories from your previous stint coaching at RMC?
Good athletes but most of the incoming had never played before. We relied on Royal Roads intake for experienced players. The OUA had 2 divisions and we played in division 2, always had a winning record and beat West Point on numerous occasions.
The support staff were terrific, Padre Walker was a great help and inspiration. Phil Cowie (Fat Boy) was the best athlete I ever coached. He came across his nickname honestly, he was outside the BMI range for the military in those days (5 to 27% body fat) so was questioned about his weight, his body fat was 4%.
Thanksgiving was always a joy, I usually took home 4 or 5 cadets who were too far from home, got a beating from my wife but got out of doing the dishes (the players did them!!)
What have you been doing since you left the RMC position?
Moved to Florida because my wife was fed up shoveling the driveway and had a good career opportunity.
Have been implementing computer systems for major universities in Florida, North Carolina and Arizona. Along the way, I continued coaching, coached the Florida All-star women’s collegiate team to 3 regional championships, my club side won the U.S. National Division 2 title.
Coached a little soccer along the way when there was no rugby in the area I was working.
Also, my daughter, Marlise, went to Medical School, so I needed to “earn” to cover the rather expensive bills that came in, she is now a second year resident in Wisconsin and I am broke!!
What motivates you to continue coaching rugby?
It is the best job in the world for me, I enjoyed playing and now I am giving back. I’ll probably stop when I hear Padre Walker saying “dust to dust, ashes to ashes” and realize he is talking about me.
What attracted you to get involved at RMC again?
Where else? smart athletes, fit athletes, courage in abundance and the best rugby field in the province.
What will be your biggest challenge being the #2 coach after being the #1 head coach for so long?
Keeping my big gob shut!! Realistically, had my Achilles rebuilt in the spring and did not think I was ready to resume being a head coach. I was working at St.Lawrence. Sean called me and asked for help, said he would take me on a walker if need be, so I came.
What are the biggest differences between Les Davidson circa 1980s – 1990s and today’s version?
Grey hair, arthritis, slightly more mature. Same attitude, same desire to push the players to achieve more, my wife says I don’t swear any more on the Sabbath, but I make up for it the rest of the week.
What do you feel have been the biggest changes in the game of (university) rugby since you last coached in the OUA?
Rugby has changed significantly in the last 20 years. With the advent of professionalism, the players have got bigger and stronger and the structure of how the game is played has changed.
The laws of the game have been adapted to suit and at every level, the play has changed in a similar fashion. Rugby is fully integrated into high schools now so the players arriving at RMC have 3 or 4 year’s experience. 25 years ago, we taught them how to play, now we are starting with good players. We still have a few newcomers and we never turn them down, however, they are on a much steeper learning curve.
Who have been your coaching mentors? What coaches in other sports do you admire?
Jim Telfer is the one I admire most, was never a player for his teams but attended several coaching clinics under him. What stood out for me is when he said “never ask a player to do something you haven’t done, or can still do, yourself”. J
Jock Stein, a great Scottish football coach was another. He came into our dressing room after a match where his Celtic team had thrashed us by 7 goals and gave us some tips on how we could improve, he was a man of great knowledge and humility.
What advice would you give a collegiate coach starting out today?
The yardstick I have always measured myself by is graduation rate. Your job as a college coach is to improve the skills of your players and see they leave with a degree. If you win a few games or a few trophies along the way, great, but stay grounded, not everyone will win a championship, but everyone can earn that degree.