The Most Supportive Fans in the League

The Most Supportive Fans in the League

A throw-back photo from 2012. From left: David Bigley, Brad Haddon, and Mason Austen, who are now playing their final season with the Gaiters, and Coach Rob Engelken (right).

Anyone close to Lennoxville knows that athletics are a huge part of the Bishop’s community. With seven varsity teams, sports fans are never far from an exciting game of football, basketball, soccer, rugby, or one of my favourites: lacrosse. The Bishop’s University Men’s Lacrosse team has held a special place in the heart of this community for many years, and is known to put on an awesome show for fans. This season, the team is second in the East, right on the tails of longtime rivals McGill Redmen. I was lucky enough to have head coach Rob Engelken answer a few questions about his team!

Let’s start by getting to know you. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Well, I live near Burlington, Vermont with my incredibly supportive wife, Gwyn, our son Taber (who’s at university in the US) and our dog Zipper, who turns 16 3/4 today! I’ve chosen to leave a few decent sales jobs over the years when they limited my time for coaching, which is what I truly love, but not without significant financial sacrifice. So I have my own painting business. Besides lacrosse, I have coached ski racing at many levels for 30 years.

It sounds like your career has taken you many places. How did you come to coach at Bishop’s? How long have you been involved with Gaiters lacrosse and what has made you stay?

I was “invited” to help at the very beginning as a technical director by Damien Roy and others who started the program about 15 years ago. Each year I became more and more involved until about six or seven years ago, when I assumed most of the head coaching role.

Two things have made me stay: 1) the continued dedication and commitment to excellence by many very special student athletes; and 2) if I left, the team as we know it, would not exist or be as successful, and I haven’t been able to leave the team that way.

As a fan, I know I love to watch the Gaiters in action. In your opinion, how is the support of the Bishop’s community for Gaiters athletics, lacrosse specifically?

We have the most supportive and “vocal” student and alumni fans in the league, and it is greatly appreciated! Opposing teams dislike playing at Coulter in large part because of the great student support! Also, because of our great family and alumni support, we get more fans when we travel to Ontario for games than the home teams do, and it really helps! There are many games from when we played on Optimist Field (a field directly beside the student village in Lennoxville) that are legendary thanks to our fans! I’m eager for the day we fill Coulter with fans, maybe November 6th?

Of course part of your job is finding new talent for your team each year. What do you tell prospective lacrosse players about the university, aside from athletics?

I tell them that we have very good academics in the programs that we offer, we have small classes, great school spirit, and a community in a beautiful area. Then I tell them to “just come visit”. The visit usually seals the deal! Prospective students feel the spirit and closeness of the school and our team when they visit.

As you mentioned, you’ve been with the Gaiters for several years now. If you had to choose (and I know it must be difficult), can you think of your favourite memory of the BU Men’s Lacrosse team?

There are many memories that stand out over the years: big wins, small victories, upsets, big comeback wins, great road-trips, every practice, great “dead-bug” performances; but I’d have to say my favourite memory was winning the national championship in 2011. We had an epic comeback to win the semi-final game, and a great team performance to win the championship. We have never been the most talented team in the league, yet we’ve played in eight semi-final and five championship games and won the championship once. And, God willing, we will win it again.

Finally, I am confident in saying that the entire BU family- students, faculty, alumni and friends- is looking forward to hosting the Baggataway Cup on our home turf. How are you preparing your team for this tournament?

We prepare every year the same way, working harder and smarter than anybody else in the league, every day. We put the work in all year and extra hard from August to November, and play the best we can every game. We are playing six NCAA teams as added tests this year to prepare us also.

It is an exciting bonus to have the great fan, family and alumni support and home field “11th man” advantage. We love playing on Coulter Field, and just have to make sure we properly manage the distractions that may come with it! #OneLove!

Interviewing Rob was a huge privilege. His dedication and passion for Gaiters lacrosse is a true testament to the Bishop’s spirit: #onelove for our teams. The Lax team is known for their huge victories and their ability to put on a show, and it’s no doubt they’ll do just that at the Baggataway Cup games. Be sure to watch, either at Coulter in your purple swag, or on the online stream wherever you may be.

Until next time,

Natalie

More info on the Baggataway Cup here.

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