Rugby coach Mike Joyce practises rugby with two-year-old Atticus Telfer.

Above and Beyond: Mike Joyce: ‘I love the sport’

For rugby coach Mike Joyce it’s all about the journey of watching a player grow from an unsure 12-year-old into an athlete.

For rugby coach Mike Joyce it’s all about the journey of watching a player grow from an unsure 12-year-old into an athlete.  Joyce is an art teacher at LV Rogers high school but volunteers as  the rugby coach at both LVR and Trafalgar Middle school.

“Teachers volunteers hundreds of hours a year towards a sports team and get paid nothing for doing it, all in the interest of enriching students lives,” said LVR teacher Jeremy McComb, who nominated Joyce.

“I don’t think the public fully understands that school sports are all on volunteer time including many weekends away from families.

“Mike trains many hours a week through the playing season and also volunteers to coach a BC regional select team out of the Okanagan. He spends most weekends traveling with his team during the season and has taken LVR teams to provincial championships and even to Europe a few times.

“To raise money for the team, he also organizes and conducts many fundraisers to bring costs down for these kids,” said McComb.

Joyce has been coaching for six years at LVR and three years at Trafalgar. It’s no  coincidence that the LVR Sr. boy’s have won the BC Secondary Union Kootenay Champions six years running.

“I love the sport,”  said Joyce. “The physicality of the sport, being together. It is highly demanding physically; you know that at some point you are going to reach that limit where you’re going to hurt. It’s 80 minutes without stopping and there are 15 people together in it with you in concert. There are eight people working together in a scrum.”

While Joyce does teach rugby at LVR in the fall as part of the schedule, the rest of his coaching is entirely volunteer.

In the fall, he coaches seven to 24 students at Trafalgar too. “It’s a good way to get them into the game.”

Joyce couldn’t say how many hours he spends volunteering but he said he is on the field most days after school and then there are games during the weekend.

“The on field stuff is the fun part for me so I don’t even keep track of it,” he said. “When we go on tour, it’s huge. The planning to take them overseas is epic. Whenever some thing needs to be done, I just do it.”

The Grade 10 to 12 boys are going to Argentina during the 2015 spring break for a two week tour.  A contact Joyce made at the last provincials will match them up with schools. There will be on field sessions with Argentine coaches during spring break and will it will be a mixture of billeting and hotels. Two years before that, Joyce headed the trip to Ireland and Wales.

All this travel and competition means a lot of fundraising which is also led by Joyce even though he is the first to point out that he has a lot of help from other coaches and the school secretary.

The Nelson Grizzlies men’s team put on a youth rugby auction every year that receives a “great out pouring of donations. And the kids do bare a lot of the costs.”

The big logistics, for example, is getting all three teams of 75-80 students on buses for the rugby Fest in Kamloops.

The best part for Joyce is “watching a kid from Grade 7, unsure of the world, grow to playing with some of the best players in the province, competing to playing premiere level on the coast. Kids playing at UVic, at a university level and seeing their journey.”

He said on Saturdays he usually gets 10 to 15  texts from rugby athletes he formally coached updating him on teams and  positions they’re are playing.

“My phone goes ding, ding, all day,” he said. “I text back,  ‘Are you prepared, etc.’”

“For a little town, we are competitive.”

The Nelson Star is pleased to continue this column to recognize the many volunteers in our community who go above and beyond to help others. The individuals we profile are selected by a committee outside the newspaper based on set criteria. For example, the person must be volunteering over the long term, and mustn’t be paid for the work. If you’d like to nominate somebody for consideration by the Above and Beyond committee email their name and why they deserve recognition to:

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