Gary Devoe, the assistant men’s rugby coach for 30 years, has stepped into the role of head coach this fall. Rick Scala, who was the head coach for all of Devoe’s time as assistant, remains on staff as an assistant coach. So far, this shift in the team’s leadership has been well received by players as they head into a game against Bates this weekend.

“It’s been a smooth transition since [Devoe] has been coaching us the whole time,” said captain Ellis Palmieri ’17. 

Before coming to Bowdoin, Devoe coached several other collegiate teams, including Bates and Colby, as well as the Portland men’s and women’s teams. He discovered his love of rugby after playing football for over a decade and has not looked back since.

In particular, Devoe cited the camaraderie of the sport, even between opponents, that makes rugby unique and keeps him involved year after year. 

“The way the sport is played—you play hard, you play uncompromising, but fair, and you meet [the other team] after the game. You go and sit and talk with your opponent,” said Devoe. “[That] doesn’t happen in a lot of other sports.”

Players expressed similar feelings of unity about the team. Since many players have never played rugby before they step onto the field at Bowdoin, most are drawn to join for the team’s balance of competitive spirit and sense of community.

“We work with our first years to make sure they feel comfortable. Not only in the field but in school [too],” said captain Jaime Quirante ’18. 

“That’s sort of the beauty of rugby—that everybody has to play, everybody has to be a good teammate,” said Devoe. “And the nice thing about this group is they’re also good teammates off the field… And the younger guys know that they can look to the older guys to find some help if they need it.”

The players are hoping to continue to develop their chemistry in order to come back from a disappointing loss to Colby in their first league game on September 17. Palmieri believes that once the new players have played more, the team won’t face the miscommunication errors that cost it several plays in the game.

“You have to be able to read what’s going on in the moment and know where you have to be as a result. So it’s kind of hard to teach that in practices,” he said. “It comes with experience.”

The team is looking forward to its match against Bates this weekend and hopes to retain the Lindbergh Cup. Named for the late Greg Lindbergh ’91, the cup is awarded to the winner of the Bates v. Bowdoin matchup every year and has been won by the Polar Bears for the past five years. 

Despite the Polar Bears’ previous success against the Bobcats, Bates is having a successful year so far. The team beat the University of Maine at Farmington, who finished second last season in the National Small College Rugby Organization Champions Cup, and lost by one point to UMaine Orono, last year’s first-place team. Though the match will be hard-fought, the Polar Bears are still optimistic. 

“I’m hoping that Bates is coming into that game a little overconfident, given that we lost our first game and that we can hopefully surprise them and come away with the win,” said Palmieri.

Looking to later in the season, Quirante and Palmieri hope the team will return to the playoffs. However, Devoe is more concerned with teaching new players and watching them improve.

“It’s nice to win,” said Devoe. “But I don’t care what the scoreboard says if they’re playing better than they did the week before and executing better than they did.”