New coach’s style excites w. rugby

With the hiring of a new head coach, the women’s rugby team looks to develop a more modern game and return as a stronger force in the fall season.

John Broker, formerly an assistant coach of the New Haven Rugby Club, has been working with the team since the end of the fall season, but will begin coaching the team full-time this winter. His plans to bring an up-tempo, wide-open style of play to Yale have team members excited.

“[Broker] is a serious, experienced, very high-caliber coach, and he has big plans for the team,” Miriam Seifter ’03 said. “Between John and our long-time coach, Sally Spatafora, we have a new game plan and high goals.”

Spatafora will remain with the team as an assistant coach, blending her experience with some of Broker’s new techniques.

“I think it’ll add a lot of structure and help us bring our game forward into the new style of rugby, which is more strategy-based,” co-captain Brooke Rosonke ’02 said. “It’s more emphasizing our strengths while minimizing our weaknesses.”

Broker’s road to becoming coach of the Yale women’s rugby team was somewhat serendipitous. Lacking a league referee for their game against Dartmouth last fall, a Yale team member called him to see if he could fill in for the day.

“I’d never met the girls before that, but after reffing for them, I offered to come down to one or two of their training sessions and help out,” Broker said. “They liked the kind of rugby I was espousing to them, I guess, and things just kind of blossomed from there. Who knew, at the time?”

The women’s team recorded no wins in the fall 2001 regular season but won their final game, a playoff match against Williams, which kept them in Division I.

“I really see the team just riding on the rush at the end of the last season and really rising to a new level and can see us doing really well in our division,” team president Lisa Rothman ’04 said. “He’s played a lot of rugby as it’s played now — and not 10 or 15 years ago — and he’ll bring a whole new element to our game that we can hopefully use to surprise other teams.”

One of the team’s major goals this season is recruiting, and several members cited the lack of players as perhaps the biggest problem of last season. With no league games, Broker and the team look to use this spring as more of a development season, to recruit new players, train and gear up for the fall.

“There are a lot of modern rugby styles out there that would suit this team, and we just have to really develop the skills and work on an exciting game plan,” Broker said.

Picking up rugby during his high school years, Broker continued playing the sport for 15 years, through college and then with the New Haven Rugby Club, the city’s local Division I team. A degenerative neck injury forced him to quit in 2000, the year New Haven placed eighth in the country. Not being able to play, he took up a coaching position and had been the assistant coach there since — until he received the telephone call that eventually brought him to Yale.

“I’m very excited. I think this is a great opportunity, and from what I understand, the girls are pretty much looking forward to it, too,” Broker said. “I think there’s an awful lot of potential here.”

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