The new assistant women’s rugby coach brings experience from both sides of the pond. James Read grew up watching semi-professional rugby at Havant Rugby Club in Hampshire, England, where he began playing at age 11. After playing for seven years at Havant, Read broke into the semi-professional world and competed alongside some of the same players he watched as a boy.
Eventually, Read decided to explore rugby opportunities in America. Read posted a highlight reel of his best plays on YouTube.
“My bio said, ‘looking to play rugby in the United States,’” said Read. “The first team and only team to get back to me was the Portland Rugby Club.”
The men’s team from the Portland Rugby Football Club—Maine’s oldest rugby team—connected with Read via email. Shortly after, the twenty-one-year-old graduated college and flew to the United States to play for Portland in the coming fall. In the spring, he flew back to England and played for Havant.
In the fall of 2014, Read began assistant-coaching the men’s team at Bates College while continuing to play for Portland. Because of his young age, Read found it difficult to gain the respect of the team.
“I was friends with the head coach [at Bates],” said Read. “But I was actually younger than some of the players that I was coaching, which [created] an interesting dynamic. I learned a lot from that [experience]. If you’re confident in something, people will listen and respond to you.”
Mary Beth Mathews, the head coach of the women’s rugby team, was impressed by Read’s genuine desire for coaching and his experience in the backfield position. Mathews was surprised to find out that she and Read share a similar coaching philosophy known as “guided discovery.”
Mathews described this method as a games-based and constraints-led approach.
“If I were to have 12 new rugby players, I would put them out on the field, six against six,” said Mathews. “All I would say [to each team] is: your job is to get the ball [over] there. And I would say nothing else. [I would] throw them out there to play with no rules and see what happens.”
Coaching at Bowdoin alongside Mathews fulfilled one of Read’s childhood goals. The women’s rugby team is excited to have him.