Updated: Apr 15, 2022
While this article was intended to introduce Cameron Hall to you all, many of you undoubtedly already know him fairly well; a staple of the Druids Men’s program since 2014, Cam’s has long since been a familiar, friendly face around the clubhouse and at Druids fundraisers and events. His presence and impact within our club has only increased in recent years, taking over coaching responsibilities for our Men’s program last season. We sat down recently to chat a bit about his history with rugby and the Druids, the experience of being a first-time coach during the post-pandemic season, his future goals for both himself and the program, and what we can expect from our Men's teams both in the upcoming season and beyond:
So to start off, can you give us a brief overview of your history with rugby?
Growing up in Wales, I was always surrounded by rugby. I played a little bit at school, but soccer was my main sport; it wasn’t until a few years after my family moved to Vancouver Island that I started taking it seriously. My first real rugby experience was at Ladysmith Secondary School when I was 13. Soon after that, I started playing club rugby for Cowichan RFC. That’s where I really started to fall in love with the sport. There was a really fun team culture within the age grade teams at Cowichan, along with great coaching and a clear pathway into their senior team, which I started playing for in grade 12. After highschool, I left Cowichan to pursue a Sports Performance Diploma in Victoria and spent the next two years playing for James Bay Athletic Association. That summer, I also moved to Edmonton for the season to play for the Druids. I ended up coming back the next few summers to play for the Druids, while also playing three seasons with the Prairie Wolfpack. In 2018, I had a chance to spend a season back in Wales playing division 1 rugby for Kenfig Hill RFC and was fortunate enough to represent the Bridgend District team.
You mentioned you began playing for the Druids while at James Bay. What originally brought you out here, and why did you decide to stay?
I had a coach in Victoria that was connected with the Druids. At 19, I was probably a bit burnt out from rugby; I was under sized and felt like I was being overlooked by a lot of the age grade National teams. My coach, Tony Healy, was pretty eager for me to keep going with rugby, however. Fortunately, he convinced me to keep playing, and I was given the option of spending a summer playing for the Druids. At first, I was a bit unsure, but after a few phone calls with Liam Mills I was really excited for the opportunity. We were a really young team that year – our Prems team was pretty much all playing U21s at the same time – and our on-field performances reflected that. We didn’t win many games, but off the field we had a lot of fun, and a lot of those guys from that U21s teams are still my really close friends to this day. That summer was exactly what I needed, and I am very grateful to everyone who allowed that to happen. Especially RJ and Craig Parfitt, who somehow managed to put up with me living with them.
Your first season as men’s coach was last year, after more or less stumbling into the position. Why did you ultimately accept the role?
I got really into running during the pandemic and a few of the boys started joining me once a week. It quickly started to gain some momentum, and soon we were regularly seeing 10 to 20 guys out. Slowly, we started to introduce a rugby ball into the mix, and without realizing it after a few months of these sessions I had become the head coach of the Druids. I would be lying if I said there weren’t times where I regretted taking on the responsibility, and there were definitely some nerves there for me at first. A lot of the guys are my close friends, or were older than me, so the thought of the player/coach dynamic was a little bit daunting. I think the fact that it happened so organically made it easier, and once those nerves settled in I really started to enjoy it. Ultimately, the boys are the reason why I agreed to the role; they couldn’t have been more welcoming of me and were really perceptive to my coaching. Together, we created a great team culture that I am very proud of.
Perhaps the better question here is, why did you agree to come back for a second season?
I really started to catch the coaching bug around the mid-point of last season. We’ve got a great mix of young and experienced players, and the opportunity to keep working with this group really excites me. The club and the team took a chance on me being an inexperienced coach, which isn’t something I take lightly. This past year I have been really motivated for the chance to grow as a coach alongside this team.
Let’s talk a bit more about that last season, because it was an interesting one to say the least. What were some challenges or obstacles you faced there, and how do you think you were able to overcome them?
Going into the season, we knew that it was going to be a struggle to get enough players. Especially young guys. The pandemic was tough for these young players, who had to make the jump to men’s after losing a season or two of junior rugby. That step up can be tough in the best of scenarios. For me, my priority was to create a fun and inclusive team environment that made that transition far easier. Credit to the older guys because they really bought in, and we now have a great core group of young players.
With that in mind, what were some success stories from last year? What have been some positives you’ve seen and continue to see coming out of that season?
We had some great on field performances last year, and had contributions from so many different players, but for me the real success story is that team culture we created. I think as a group we realized that the future of our team relies on a constant stream of players coming up from our junior program, so that environment is one that we have to continue to maintain. We did a good job of evening the playing field last year, where everyone was given the opportunity to succeed, and seeing so many players take their chances in the first team was really encouraging.
Given all this, what were some lessons you learned from last year, and how do you think they’ll affect your approach going into this next season?
Last year was bit different in that I had to take things in stride. Since I hadn’t planned to coach, I didn’t really have a long-term plan for the on-field performance of the team, and predominantly focused on creating a positive environment. I think that led to me being quite reactive in my coaching approach. On-field performances aren’t the only measurement of success, and it can take time to improve different aspects of our game. Having the time to develop a well thought out plan this year will allow me to better measure our success based on smaller process goals established throughout the season.
Thinking more about this upcoming season, what are some things you’re excited for? What are you really looking forward to?
I am really excited for the depth we will have in the team this year. Last year we had a really positive group at training, and this year I think we’re going to increase the competition level. We’ve got a lot of guys that can push for first team spots, and that should create some really competitive training sessions. My philosophy has stayed consistent in that you have to train in order to play, so if you are the best player in your position at training you will be given the opportunity to start. I am also excited to see some of our young players make the transition towards becoming leaders in our group.
Conversely, what are some upcoming challenges or obstacles you’re foreseeing, and how do you think you’ll be able to overcome them?
The challenge for us will be finding enough games, specifically for our Division 2 team. We will have enough players for two teams, which most clubs will not. Having a competitive training environment will help us replicate playing games, but making sure everyone is getting the opportunity to play will definitely be a priority for me.
So what can players and supporters expect from these 2022 men’s teams?
You can definitely expect to see an exciting brand of rugby from us this season. As a group this preseason we’ve prioritized evasion, improvisation, and keeping the ball alive. We’re going to look to play quite an up-tempo style with a focus on playing within a certain shape without pre-called phases of play. We have a really talented and athletic group; my priority is to see them become better decision makers who can make decisions based on what’s in front of them rather than a pre-meditated set of plays. The goal is to get the entire group bought in to this style of play. That should result in two teams that can create a really exciting on-field product.
To wrap everything up, how would you like to see the men’s program and the club as a whole continue to progress beyond this season? How do you think we can help Druid’s rugby continue to grow?
For the Men’s team, I would like to see us progress with our style of play. We need to create an identity in the way we play which can hopefully trickle down to our junior system. Having a club identity and a Druids style of rugby will only strengthen the player pathway from Juniors to Seniors for both our Men’s and Women’s programs.
For me personally, I would like to make an effort to get more involved with our junior teams. It’s really encouraging to see the success of our junior programs, and we have so many amazing volunteers who make that happen. I’d like to see our Senior rugby teams get more involved in our junior setup, myself included, as I think that will really help boost the successes of all programs. Many of our players are helping coach local high school teams, which is a positive step in this direction. Ultimately, I think It’s really important we give back to the programs that led us in one way or another to the Druids.
We would like to thank Cam for the time he continues to dedicate to our club and the Men’s program, and look forward to the next of what we hope will be many seasons with him at the helm!