By: Karen Gasbarino
Saskatoon native Andrew Evans has enjoyed a decade of behind the scenes work with rugby players as a strength and conditioning coach, earning the accolades and respect the many players who have relied on his expertise and learned from his solid work ethics. Of particular note was his role as Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Rugby Canada from 2013-2016, but he also spent time working with the Rugby Canada U20s in 2011.
This high level of respect for a coach who offers the best of himself in order to achieve the best in his players is no surprise. Evans genuinely cares about the game of rugby, but more than that, he cares about players. He believes in the potential of each player, and he seeks to tap it.
It was a great play for the growth of rugby in Canada then, when recently it was formally announced that he was named Director of Rugby of the Trinity Western University Spartans men’s 15’s and women’s 7’s rugby programs, which will resume competition in the Fall of 2019 after a 14-year hiatus.
I had a great opportunity to speak to the genuinely affable Evans before the holidays where he was able to outline the plan going forward and how the Trinity Western philosophy aligns with his own as well as the values instilled within rugby players worldwide.
Trinity Western Spartans Rugby looks to provide an innovative program that will appeal to students but that will also hopefully see other universities follow suit. This could potentially lead to collaborations, which is the eventual hope.
The exciting prospect for Evans and Trinity Western is that players recruited for their program will be developed and trained with the idea in mind that they’ll feed directly into Rugby Canada and professional rugby, notably Major League Rugby. In this respect, rugby in North America will benefit greatly from another competitive University program devoting resources to growing rugby on this side of the pond. 75% of the students will be Canadian, with a further 25% of students hailing from the USA or other parts of the world.
There is a lot of interest in the program from across Canada and beyond. Successful candidates will ideally enjoy a well-rounded life outside of rugby while they’ll also be given the ability to prepare themselves for full-time professional rugby. Evans explains that there had been mistakes made in the past in preparing young players for what a rugby life would properly entail, and that they had not been given the tools to excel; but they are hoping at Trinity Western to learn from the past and help players prepare for not just a rugby life, but for one outside of the game, as well as post-playing days. The University is small – with an enrollment of 4000 students, but boasts phenomenal success in their sports programs.
Evans will begin the recruitment process early in the year. His goal for the first season is to recruit 34 male athletes for the 15’s program and 18 female athletes for the 7’s program for the Fall ’19 semester.
Spartans Athletic Director Jeff Gamache was quoted in the January 3 issue of Independent Sports News, saying: “Andrew’s passion to develop Complete Champion athletes within a rugby program is inspiring. I have every confidence that the young women and men that choose to come to TWU to play rugby will be challenged to be great people of character, great athletes and great students. As with our other programs, we have every expectation that the rugby program will be a top program in North America in short order.”
While this would appear to be a tall order, there is excitement that the Spartans Rugby program will do just as it intends. Former players and colleagues from Rugby Canada have been highly complimentary and supportive of the move for Evans. Popular thinking is that the Trinity Western University rugby program and Andrew Evans were made for each other.
The care for players and their development in every facet of life was the motivating factor for both Evans and the program. The mission of Trinity Western is to develop future world leaders. Fostering ambassadorship and the care for the world and others is of utmost importance. As Evans states, “the values of rugby lend themselves to being a good person and a great ambassador of sport, but also beyond sport.” Trinity Western truly cares about people and have high expectations that students pursue excellence in all they do and treat each other well. In so doing, Evans explains, students will strive to reach a higher level in any pursuit.
The Rugby program strives to do the same, to lead by example. The program is focussed. On training, on being the best. The first part of 2019 will be spent recruiting the right athletes for the program.
Evans welcomes any inquiries directly: AndrewEvans@twu.ca. “Any readers can seek us out and apply – successful candidates will get a quality world-class education and high calibre training.” He goes on to explain that the goal is for TWU to “develop athletes not just academically, but also mentally and spiritually, creating strong leaders for the future.”
Ot should be said that one doesn’t speak with Andy Evans without also touching on Rugby Canada as it prepares for this all-important World Cup year, given his intimacy with the program and the people in and around it.
Evans feels strongly that Rugby Canada will continue to follow the trend they began last autumn of overcoming challenges and playing as a team. “The boys had come together so well. As long as they stay together and have fun, they’ll continue to do well.”
He says that confidence in Kingsley Jones is high. He has done an exemplary job keeping the team together despite the turmoil of 2018, and “tactically had them playing well together.” Evans feels World Cup will be successful in that it will help to get Canada back on track, where they should be.
Andrew Evans speaks authoratively, and knows what he’s talking about. His enthusiasm and positive outlook is contagious. Any rugby program in his hands can’t help but benefit and flourish.
For information, https://gospartans.ca/sports/wrugby/index :
About Trinity Western University
Recognized for quality, TWU has received seven consecutive A+ rankings for Quality of Teaching and Learning, holds three Canada Research Chairs, and wins national championships in CIS sports. More importantly, lives are changed at TWU through its whole-person, Christ-centred approach to education. With a wide array of undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree-completion programs, TWU equips leaders of character and competence to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
About Spartan Athletics
As official members of U SPORTS, the Spartans currently compete in 10 sports in the Canada West conference, including women’s and men’s soccer, volleyball, basketball, cross country and track & field. TWU also competes in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) in men’s hockey. Since TWU entered U SPORTS in 1999, the Spartans have won 11 U SPORTS team championships and 25 Canada West team championships.