Former Navy coach Mike Flanagan, an Arnold resident, inducted into USA Rugby Hall of Fame

Mike Flanagan spent 5 years as head coach of the Loyola Maryland males’s rugby program. It was a membership sport on the Baltimore college and due to this fact acquired no assist from the athletic division.

Flanagan, a schoolteacher by commerce, was spending an increasing number of time dealing with a variety of duties from scheduling to ordering uniforms to creating journey preparations.

“It turned too labor-intensive. It was a 40-hour-a-week job and I wasn’t getting paid,” he stated.

In 1991, Flanagan was employed as a trainer at Indian Creek Faculty and moved to the Annapolis space, so it was interesting when he was contacted about serving as an assistant for the Navy rugby program. Flanagan was recruited by a number of Navy gamers who had been members of the Potomac Rugby Union Collegiate All-Star squad he coached.

“I advised them I might come down and coach their scrum, however didn’t need any duty,” Flanagan recalled.

That association labored as a result of Lt. Pat Lein, who was stationed on the academy on the time, was the top coach and dealt with all the executive duties. Flanagan accepted the place and was halfway by way of his first 12 months when Lein’s Navy reserve unit was ordered to energetic obligation. It was February and the 1992 spring season was about to start out.

“Pat referred to as me up in a panic and stated ‘You have to take the crew.’ I requested how lengthy his deployment would final and he stated about 10 months,” Flanagan stated. “I used to be like, ‘OK, I’ll maintain issues till you come again.’ Pat by no means got here again.”

That’s how Flanagan turned head coach of Navy rugby, a place he held with distinction for 27 years. He led the Midshipmen to greater than 450 wins and developed 43 All-Individuals.

“Truthfully, the job was simply sort of handed to me. I assume I did an excellent job main this system throughout my first season and that led to a collection of 27 one-year contracts,” he stated.

Flanagan, who guided Navy to 13 nationwide semifinal and 23 quarterfinal playoff appearances, was just lately inducted into the USA Rugby Corridor of Fame. The 72-year-old Arnold resident shall be formally enshrined throughout a dinner Sept. 16 in Salt Lake Metropolis upfront of an exhibition match between the USA Eagles and Stade Toulousain from France.

“I’m honored, humbled and questioning whether or not I actually deserve this,” Flanagan stated of his Corridor of Fame choice.

Flanagan retired following the 2017 season and turned the reins over to Gavin Hickie, who simply accomplished his sixth season as head coach. Rugby was elevated to varsity standing by the Naval Academy Athletic Affiliation in Could 2022 and capped its inaugural season by capturing the Division I-A nationwide championship. Prime-ranked Navy defeated No. 5 California, 28-22, to complete with an 18-0 document.

Former Navy rugby coach Mike Flanagan celebrates following one of the many victories he recorded during a 27-year tenure.

“That is such a deserving honor as a result of Mike Flanagan is a legendary determine within the historical past of Navy rugby,” Hickie stated. “It is extremely befitting that somebody who has given a lot to Navy rugby is now within the Corridor of Fame.”

Navy rugby gained 80% of its matches below Flanagan and the truth that this system was a perennial nationwide championship contender all through his three a long time of management was instrumental within the sport incomes varsity standing. Flanagan additionally performed an integral function in getting the Prusmack Rugby Middle constructed in 2016, networking with alumni to boost funds.

“Mike was banging on that door for a really very long time. With out Mike laying the groundwork, it might by no means have occurred,” Hickie stated. “Mike was an integral a part of the long-term success of Navy rugby and we’re nonetheless reaping the rewards of his efforts.”

Murph McCarthy performed for Flanagan from 1998 to 2000 then returned to the academy to function his assistant coach. McCarthy, who simply accomplished his fifth as Navy girls’s rugby coach, stated supporters have been lobbying for Flanagan’s inclusion within the USA Rugby Corridor of Fame.

“I stand with a whole bunch and a whole bunch of Naval Academy rugby alumni who’re very proud that coach Mike Flanagan has been chosen for the USA Rugby Corridor of Fame. He has given a lot of his time and himself to the game and the academy over time,” McCarthy stated.

Flanagan was born and raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and enlisted in the US Navy instantly out of highschool. He served 4 years and used the GI invoice to get a school training, enrolling at Towson State School. He found rugby at Towson and fell in love with the sport.

Whereas working full time as a trainer for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Flanagan coached rugby on the aspect — spending two seasons main the Towson girls’s crew earlier than taking on the Loyola males’s program.

Flanagan additionally served as head coach for the Potomac Rugby Union Collegiate Selects (1988-1995) and the Mid-American Rugby Soccer Union Collegiate Selects (1996-2004). He held all these aforementioned positions in a volunteer capability and acquired a modest stipend whereas at Navy.

Former Navy rugby coach Mike Flanagan, right, poses with Sean Disarafino, captain of the 1992 Navy rugby team.

Flanagan labored full time as a trainer with Anne Arundel County Public Faculties all through his tenure as Navy rugby coach. He went straight from Annapolis Excessive or Central Center to the rugby follow facility to place a follow plan on the chalkboard earlier than the midshipmen arrived for follow.

At Navy, Flanagan oversaw two applications concurrently — educating newly recruited plebes easy methods to play the sport whereas instructing the upperclassmen with expertise on offensive and defensive schemes.

Flanagan needed to hustle to search out gamers, scooping up many midshipmen who had been recruited for varied varsity sports activities. One former participant dubbed the rugby program “the land of damaged toys” as a result of nearly each participant got here from one other sport.

“For all these years I used to be there, I couldn’t recruit a single participant. I needed to discover inventive methods to get guys to come back out for rugby,” stated Flanagan, who found out when the soccer crew made cuts and sometimes picked up gamers who didn’t make varsity.

Flanagan believes rugby is a sport that helped midshipmen with their management improvement. He famous that everybody is a two-way participant (offense and protection) and should deal with the ball in some unspecified time in the future.

“There are millions of selections to be remodeled the course of a recreation,” he stated. “As a trainer, it was very gratifying as a result of I watched guys develop as each gamers and younger males. I’m actually proud that so a lot of our Navy rugby alums went on to profitable careers within the army and in enterprise.”

Two members of the 1991 Navy rugby crew, Rob Gaucher and Joe DiGuardo, went on to succeed in the rank of admiral. Capt. Ben Oakes is presently the skipper of the USS New York. Capt. Rob Sinram was commander of a helicopter squadron.

“Mike actually loved mentoring midshipmen on the Naval Academy and serving to younger males go off to do greater issues,” McCarthy stated. “Mike was one of many first folks in my Naval Academy expertise who began treating me like an officer earlier than I used to be commissioned. He anticipated loads out of you and by no means sugarcoated something. He advised you what he needed you to do and easy methods to do it. You didn’t wish to let him down.”

The best season in the course of the Flanagan period got here in 1994 when Jason Hedberg, Invoice Mallory, Jeff Hoagland, Brad Hanner and Eric Schuette led the Midshipmen to a 25-1 document and a berth within the nationwide championship recreation at Catholic College, the place Navy misplaced to Cal-Berkeley, 34-23.

Flanagan is reluctant to call the most effective gamers he coached however famous that Hedberg, Oakes, Sinram and Jeremy Graczyk have been all two-time All-Individuals. That Navy had a mean of virtually two All-Individuals per season all through his tenure is a testomony to Flanagan’s capacity to establish and develop expertise.

“Mike was the one fixed with this program. Due to Mike’s information and training capacity, he was at all times in a position to flip a bunch of first rate athletes into actually good rugby gamers,” McCarthy stated. “Gamers got here and went, however Mike was at all times there. He personally made positive the custom continued.”

Hickie identified that six full courses of midshipmen got here by way of the Navy rugby program in the course of the Flanagan period. There are actually 1000’s of Navy rugby alums who remained loyal to Flanagan and supported this system due to his presence.

When Flanagan lastly determined it was time to retire, Hickie was one of many candidates he extremely beneficial to the Naval Academy Athletic Affiliation. Hickie had been head coach at Dartmouth and Flanagan was impressed by his acumen and enthusiasm.

“Mike helped me get this job and I’ve been the beneficiary of his unwavering assist ever since I took over,” stated Hickie, whose official title is director of Navy rugby. “Mike has been an excellent sounding board and supplied a variety of precious recommendation. My hope is that I can keep right here so long as Coach Flanagan did.”

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Revealed : 2023-07-13 06:00:00

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