While talent, experience, speed and strength are essential to any successful rugby team, there is one more ingredient that any sports team will ultimately fail without; a coach to guide them along.Tony DeRemer, head coach of the women’s rugby team, has the credentials to take them all the way.
DeRemer is currently in his twelfth year coaching rugby here at West Chester University. It is an interesting story of how he actually acquired the coaching job here. Back in 1996, the women’s rugby team was only a club sport. There were two volunteer coaches at the time. They asked Tony to come out and watch a couple of practices, and afterwards told him that they “no longer want to coach the team, it’s yours now.”
The two men knew that DeRemer knew the sport inside and out. Like most rugby players, he didn’t start playing rugby until his college years here at West Chester University. After college, DeRemer kept it up, participating in multiple rugby leagues in the Jersey area, as well as attaining a referee certification.
When DeRemer first acquired the team, it consisted of about ten girls. The sport was very new to the nation, and very few colleges had rugby as an actual collegiate sport. He began to advertise the sport more around the campus, and added more players to the team every year.
By 1997 they had advanced to Division 1 in the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union, and the next year won the championship. Since then they have won three more EPRU championships, making themselves the only other team except for Princeton to have won three since 1983.
After becoming the first NCAA II rugby team in 2004, the girls have made the sweet 16 every year for the past three years. DeRemer feels that in the past, the thing lacking that kept the girls out of the final four was their lack of speed.
“We’ve added some speed to our lineup this year and I think we are in a much better position to compete with the final four teams,” DeRemer said.
He also mentioned three core-leading seniors on the team that, since their first year in 2004, “take control of the match.”
The first of these three seniors is Whitney Hartshorne, who, as DeRemer described her, “leads by example and is very vocal on the pitch. She is always directing traffic on the field and is one of the smartest players on the team.”
Hartshorne is one of the few players on the team who grew up playing rugby in high school, and her experience and confidence shows on the field.
The next senior star, Steph Burkhardt, brings that speed that the Rams have been looking for. A multi-sport participant in high school (including soccer), Steph “injects pace, skill and speed into the game,” not to mention she was an All-American last year and is the all time leader in trys scored in Golden Ram history.
Katy Black came to rugby as an escape from college, but ended up with much more then she expected, and DeRemer is glad for it. A natural at the sport, Black is “an incredible tackler, ball handler, and runner.” And she has been noticed, being chosen to participate in the USA Under 23 National Team as well as an All-American nomination the past two years.
Coach DeRemer really enjoys coaching women’s rugby.
“They do not have any bad habits to break,” DeRemer said.
It is harder with men because they usually come from a football background, and they do many things incorrectly, like the way they hold the ball or tackle, for example.
“Women are also easy to coach because they have never learned anything about the game and it is easy to teach them from scratch,” DeRemer said.
DeRemer said that this is changing now, making his job a bit harder sometimes. Rugby, as a women’s sport, is growing greatly in popularity nowadays, with 20 area high schools having teams. More girls come into tryouts with more experience than the juniors and seniors on the team. Last year, seven girls who had played in high school tried out for the West Chester squad.
Coach DeRemer is looking forward to this Saturdays game, which could land them a spot in the Sweet 16 for the fourth year in a row.
“I am very proud of my team and I think they are in a very good position to go far into the playoffs this year,” DeRemer said.
Ryan Frisco is a first-year student majoring communication studies. He can be reached at RF648257@wcupa.edu.