This time last year, Laura Miller was pursuing a coaching psychology masters at Life University and assistant coaching the women’s rugby team alongside Ros Chou. As the former Eagle considered future career moves, Alderson Broaddus University announced that it was adding rugby to its athletic department. The West Virginia school was looking for a head coach of both its men’s and women’s teams, and Miller applied.
“When I started at Life, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to move onto a head coaching role, but if I did, I wanted three things: to compete in NSCRO, be at a small school, and have access to the outdoors,” Miller drew upon fond experiences as an undergrad at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (not to be confused with Mount St. Mary’s College, also in Maryland). “Then I heard about this opportunity when I was on the Premiership Rugby Scholarship tour in London.”
Alderson Broaddus (AB) met all of Miller’s must-haves, and the university felt similarly. The interview process led to a job offer, which Miller accepted in spring 2018.
“It’s a really small school with about 1,000 students in a close-knit environment, and it seems like a place that is very ready to be excited by our sport,” Miller said. “It’s clear that rugby is going to have an incredible home here and inject energy into the campus. AB doesn’t know what rugby is yet – there’s no existing club team – and we’re recruiting the whole team this year. But I’ve heard from different admission and administrative offices how excited they are to watch the games. The school has an athletic focus and a lot of school spirit.”
Miller, who is supported by assistant coaches Phil Gallagher and John Baker, has been on the road recruiting for both the men’s and women’s programs since June, and was driving back from a scouting trip at Cranford, N.J., when this interview took place.
“We’re looking for two things: First, athletes who want to be a part of our community and campus, and who would thrive in a summer camp type of environment,” Miller referenced the convenient access to the outdoors. “We’re in a rural area and the campus is on top of hill overlooking the Tygart Valley River. It’s a beautiful part of the country, but the outdoors doesn’t appeal to everyone.
“Second, we’re looking for those who take rugby seriously and want to be treated like professionals,” the coach continued. “There are a lot of people out there who fit that description; it’s just a matter of finding them.”
The rugby programs are administered by the athletic department and treated like any other sport at Alderson Broaddus, with access to athletic trainers, varsity gym and a dedicated grass rugby pitch, among other amenities. The university offers need-based aid and merit-based scholarships, and Miller is able to stack rugby scholarships on top of those finance streams.
Mention “scholarships” and perceptions change, but Miller isn’t planning on skyrocketing anywhere. The near future is focused on building a foundation for continued success.
“We really have to explain to any recruit that they’re as much responsible for building AB as we are,” Miller said. “We have a hand in what this program becomes and that’s why recruiting the right athlete is so important and why we want them to be excited about being on campus, too.”
The women’s program has committed to NSCRO for the first two years of its existence. Community college, transfers and college-age athletes are already arriving for the spring 2019 semester, and so Alderson Broaddus will play NSCRO 7s and then join the 15s league in the fall.
“People ask: Do you seen yourself in NSCRO long-term? Time will tell where this program lands,” said Miller, who praised NSCRO’s organization and ideals. “The athletes who come here will determine what that is for us and what level of competition we find ourselves in.”
Want to check out Alderson Broaddus: The program is holding a scholarship ID camp on Dec. 14-16 (click here). For more information, fill out the recruit application (here) or e-mail Coach Miller at email@example.com or visit www.ab.edu.