Varsity coach teaches athletes and students life lessons on and off the field

Rugby players James left and Rahal right on the field with Coach John Daggett
Varsity rugby players James Robb-Kennedy (left) and Rahal Delpachitra (right) with head coach John Daggett

Sport can be a way to create meaning in life and find one’s place in the world. It brings people together and creates a common human experience for spectators too.

Georgian’s Varsity rugby head coach John Daggett says sport also teaches students important life lessons they can use in the classroom, in the workplace, and in their personal relationships.

“Even if you’re not an athlete, being in a club or finding a support network at school really helps provide a fuller student experience,” he says. “Finding – and making – connections on and off the field enhances college life and makes you more well-rounded.”

In addition to being head coach, John is also Manager of Co-operative Education and Career Success and passes on what he’s learned in his 20-year teaching/coaching career with students and student athletes alike.

Below, John shares what students can learn from sports or being on a team, how they can apply it to their life, and why he says it enriches his life also.

What words of wisdom do you share with your rugby players?

I always tell student athletes that if they leave our program and they’re only better rugby players, we’ve failed them. We strive to develop better people overall, and hope players take what they’ve learned during their time with us and make those around them better too.

Also, enjoy the big (wins!) and small moments (improving your game) – student athletes may not realize it at the time, but these will be the moments they reflect on later in life and realize how truly impactful they were.

What kind of life skills do you teach or try to impart on your rugby players?

Rugby, sport and clubs teach students about honesty, trust, integrity, accountability, mental toughness, teamwork, resilience and commitment. These life skills easily transfer into relationships and the workforce, particularly when working in teams and with others – teamwork in general helps create mental, emotional and social balance; sport isn’t simply about physicality or winning.

Why do you think students should pursue sports or join a club?  

I’ve seen first-hand how sport can help students with their physical, mental and emotional health. I truly believe being involved in sport – or being involved in any club, really – helps bring about a more robust school experience. Our student athletes, for example, make lifelong friendships and create experiences that last forever.

Why did you want to coach rugby?

I know how important sport can be for young people and have seen the difference it can make in their lives. The game has given me so much, and I wanted to give back. Without sports, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Also, my dad was a passionate coach and great supporter of youth sport; he really inspired me to do the same.

What have your rugby players taught YOU about sports and life?

I’ve become a better person as a result of being a coach. I’ve learned how to be a better communicator, how to be more empathetic, and what goals are truly important. I see my own rugby players as mentors – they teach me about what today’s student is all about.

International student thrives under Coach Daggett

International student Rahal Delpachitra is one of many student athletes who have flourished under Coach Daggett’s instruction.

Rahal came to Canada from Sri Lanka in 2021. He says coming to Georgian was a life-changing experience, but he found comfort – and home – when he joined the college’s Varsity rugby team, a sport he’s been playing since he was 11 years old.

He’s in the Business Administration – Human Resources advanced diploma program, and in addition to being an athlete, is the student lead in the Athletic and Fitness Centre at the Barrie Campus.

Rugby isn’t just a sport – it’s a culture here at Georgian. Coach Daggett emphasizes that life values and discipline are qualities we’d learn through playing, and he doesn’t just focus on winning games and medals. It’s not just the coaches that provide balance; other team members help you become a better person and player both on and off the field…we really depend on each other to reach our goals on the field and in the classroom.

Rahal says this was especially helpful and welcome after starting a new life in a new country.

“Coach Daggett has become a real mentor and father figure to me personally, and he’s guided me in regards to rugby, education, work life, and personal development,” Rahal adds.

Teammate James Robb-Kennedy adds that John has taught him many life lessons and how to be a better human in the process.

“What really sets Coach Daggett apart is how much he genuinely cares about his players and how he wants them to succeed in life, as well as in rugby,” he says. “Because of this, our team is more like a brotherhood or family.” 

Five ways sport is more than just a game

Coach Daggett on five ways sport is more than just a game – and what being part of a team can teach you outside the classroom.

  1. Sport teaches you about failure (e.g., losing games) – it develops people in various ways, like teaching you how to deal with loss or how to manage expectations. You never really fail if you learn something about yourself or the experience.
  2. Team sports help you work well with others, which is useful in the working world and in personal relationships.
  3. Sports teaches you about accountability – if you’re part of a team, you’re not just “in it” for yourself but for your teammates as well! If you don’t show up, you’re not just failing to show up for yourself, but for others.
  4. You’re more well-rounded – juggling school, sports and other obligations can be tough, but it can teach you about perseverance and commitment; hard work is a critical component of success in sports, in the classroom, and in life in general.
  5. You learn how to deal with adversity, and you have a built-in support network – there are hardships in every game, in every assignment, and in every life; but when you’re part of a team or you have a support network, it’s easier to overcome obstacles…or get help overcoming them. 

Want to be part of a team?

Posted Jan. 24, 2023

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