Colborne grabs the clipboard

Former men's rugby player takes up coaching after graduation

Colborne’s goal is to spread student’s love for the game.
Colborne’s goal is to spread student’s love for the game.
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After 16 years playing rugby, Alex Colborne hung up his cleats at the end of last season—but he’s still very much a part of the Queen’s rugby fabric. 

Having seen four OUA championship matches and three Turner Trophies in his Queen’s career, Colborne’s made his peace and stepped off the pitch to find something else he loves—something easier on his body.

“My body is just indicative of 16 years of rugby,” Colborne told The Journal. “My knees are falling apart, my shoulders are just destroyed. My back is pretty bad.” 

While staying in Kingston for a research position this fall, he’s been coaching with the Queen’s rugby club’s 3s and 4s teams. Queen’s varsity club, which is no longer directly associated with the varsity team, is a development squad that requires less commitment. 

Colborne, who played for varsity team all through his undergrad, said he gains significant joy from developing younger athletes.

“Most of the guys coming in, the rookies especially, would have been the best guys on their high school team,” he said. “Then they come here and they’re just a tiny fish in a big pond.”

As the 3s and 4s coach, Colborne prioritizes making his teams’ training sessions as enjoyable as possible. 

“[It’s] why I enjoy being the coach,” he said. “I’m just taking everything I used to do on my old teams in England … making them play as much rugby and love it.”

Beginning his career at age six, in his hometown of Bristol, England, Colborne has never known anything but rugby. He recalled his everyday consisting of going to school and playing rugby. 

“I think I had too much energy as a kid, and my parents were like, ‘Get this kid into a contact sport,’” Colborne said of his early career.

By high school, Colborne was at one point playing for four teams as often as five times a week, from September until May.  

Despite roots in Britain, Colborne was familiar with Queen’s because his father completed his PhD at the university. When Colborne visited his older brother at Queen’s, as a high school student, he couldn’t resist—especially given the calibre of the school’s rugby program.

Currently, Colborne hopes to show his players that rugby is more of a team sport than in high school. He said his entire coaching philosophy is built around his favourite aspect of the game: camaraderie.

“At Queen’s, we have 100 plus people in the [rugby] system,” he said. “You have this massive family, these people you’re going to be inherently tight with, [and] just because you’re playing rugby.”

Along with playing for the Queen’s varsity team, Colborne played for Team Ontario while on contract with the Canadian 7s junior team in the summer of 2017—an experience he described as “pretty frustrating.”

“I don’t think the Canadian rugby system is very well organized,” Colborne said. “So that put me off rugby coming into Queen’s last year—as soon as I was back playing with guys I like in a better system and on a dominant team, [it was] pretty nice.”

Since he won’t be playing rugby for the foreseeable future, Colborne doesn’t know what his relationship with the sport will be once he leaves Queen’s for good at the end of the semester. 

“I’m trying to get into yoga,” he said.

“I might do some more coaching and maybe [refereeing], take it slow. I kind of want to just work on [the] professional side of my life,” he said, having recently graduated from mechanical engineering 

His career post-Queen’s isn’t set in stone either—Colborne has been working to find his passion in engineering so far, but it isn’t the same love he’s had for rugby. 

“I’m kind of trying to step back and explore,” Colborne said. “[I want to find] what I like other than rugby.” 

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