By Ryan Pietruszewski
Patrick Schwartz was hired last month to fill the head coaching position of the Bemidji State men’s rugby team.
The Angry Beavers are a division two team that was founded in 2004. The team president and player coach, Jeff Sprunk, announced Schwartz’s hiring on March 3.
Originally from the iron range, Schwartz played professional hockey in Germany before his knee blew out and he transitioned to rugby. After playing rugby in Germany for a few years, he moved back to the U.S. and played for the Chicago Lions for 11 years.
Now at BSU’s helm, Schwartz had much praise for his team.
“All the foundation is there,” he said. “I’m walking into something that is already solid. We’ve got the size, we’ve got the speed, we’ve got the ball-sense. All we really need to do is fine-tune things. I’ve told the guys that they’re probably the best-kept secret in Bemidji.”
The team’s captains, Sprunk and Corey Sura, handled all of the responsibilities of the team, from the recruiting, to organizing practices, to making sure the necessities with the Minnesota Ruby Union are taken care of.
“The BSU rugby team is really, really well respected,” Schwartz said. “They’ve done everything that has ever been asked of them. (Minnesota Rugby Union president Becky Reynolds) told me point blank that I’m inheriting a very respectable bunch of players.”
The biggest struggle for the players was the recruitment process. They’re efforts were limited by their already busy schedules, so their main method of recruiting was setting up a table on campus and talking to passersby.
Schwartz has sent about 100 letters to high school football coaches and has landed a few players for next fall.
Overall his goals for the Angry Beavers are ambitious. He wants young men to come to Bemidji State for the purpose of playing rugby.
“Bemidji has got a very unique situation where we have a lot that can attract these players,” he said. “I haven’t had a real problem in selling the campus or selling the area. You never will. The thing is we have to build the program to start attracting players that will be looking to BSU for playing rugby.”
Rugby is growing in the United States. Starting in 2004, Bemidji State has a head start on the rest of the country.
“They’ve really got great potential, they really do,” Schwartz said. “Everything could fall in place for these guys. They just needed a little bit of direction.”