“..acceptance, togetherness, passion, and a clear vision.”
Impact Free Jack celebrates the stories, efforts, and people of the New England community who inspire the next generation of players, leaders and future Free Jacks. The weekly Q&A series explores the journeys of players, coaches, officials, officers, and ambassadors of the game and how they are making a difference.
In the spotlight this week is Edward Gostick, New England’s youngest certified rugby coach, founder of the Eagles Youth Rugby program in Southborough, MA, and budding player.
Free Jacks: Edward, could you please tell us a little bit about your rugby background? How did you make your way into the game?
Edward Gostick: I’ve been around the sport from a really young age – I started playing rugby when I was five years old with Worcester Rookie Rugby. When I was nine, my family moved to Germany, but luckily I was able to join and play rugby with RK Heusenstamm. It was a shock, at first, dealing with the language barrier and adjusting to a more aggressive approach to rugby. By the time I returned to the States 3 years later, I had been part of the team that earned the Silver Medal in the German Age-Grade National Championships.
Once I came back to Massachusetts, I began playing with my high school team, and played with the varsity team as a freshman. However, I quickly realized that our team had a problem – nobody joining the team had any knowledge of the game. So I decided to set up a middle school rugby program as a feeder team!
FJ: I’ll stop you there, because that’s a nice transition to the next question – how did you become involved in coaching rugby?
EG: So like I mentioned, I decided to start a middle school rugby program to feed into my high school. In order to set up the team, I trained and became a L200 qualified coach two days after my 16th birthday – making me the youngest qualified rugby coach in New England! A year later I also became a referee.
I felt that the most important part of being a coach was to make players love the game. I believe that it is this philosophy that helped inspire our middle school team to win the Bay State games in our first year, despite the fact that none of our players had ever played rugby before. I was also lucky to have a great team of coaches behind me. It made all the difference. After the season, I received a handwritten letter of congratulations from Jonny Wilkinson (English legendary Flyhalf), which is now my most treasured possession.
FJ: Now what would you like to see happen in the New England Rugby landscape to help the game continue to grow?
EG: First, I’d like to see more teams formed, so that we have more teams to play against and to help rugby become more legitimate as a youth sport in New England. Along with that, it is important to build a relationship of trust with parents many of whom are concerned about the safety aspect of the sport. For my middle school team, I organize parent nights to teach them a bit more about rugby and explain to them how we would ensure their child’s safety.
FJ: Shifting gears a bit, what is your favorite rugby memory – could be from playing or coaching?
EG: I’ll go with one from playing. In a high school against Blue Hills my freshman year, the coach put me in for the last five minutes of the game. I was a terrible player at this point and there was an open ruck, about ten yards from the try line. I just ran through, picked up the ball, stepped their full back and scored my first high school try!
FJ: And if you had to choose your favorite quote of all time, what it would be?
EG: “The key components for me of a thriving team are always acceptance, togetherness, passion, and a clear vision. Driven by these the group and the individuals within it will find inspiration and spirit and will uncover potential.”
- Jonny Wilkinson, in his letter to me.
FJ: One last question, what would you choose to be the Free Jacks’ stadium song for the 2021 season?
EG: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot