December 14th, 2017

Pronghorns mourn loss of rugby coach

By Yoos, Cam on June 28, 2017.

Herald file photo University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women's rugby coach Ric Suggitt works with the team for the start of the 2015 season.

A ‘Good Sport’ column by Dylan Purcell

Ric Suggitt died quickly, to me. I heard he got sick, then less than 12 hours later, I heard he died.

Sluggo, the head coach of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, was dead.

Ric Suggitt, the father and husband and friend, died, too.

I met Sluggo when he joined the Horns and it was something else. He was a towering, manic explosion of a man. His twisted hands reached out, shook and didn’t release until an awkward amount of time passed.

His whole face squinted, then opened up with a chesty laugh, because Sluggo didn’t know half-measures. He poured the whole damn cup in.

“Hey, I’m Ric, I hear I’ve got to watch what I say around you. Call me Sluggo, though, I don’t always answer to Ric.”

Sluggo was batcrap crazy in all the best ways. For the U of L summer camps last year, he asked to put the camp kids through some drills.

“Sure, we’ll let you run a station, maybe get the kids to pass and kick a rugby ball.”

“Yeah, yeah, that sounds good,” he said.

When we arrived at the U of L Stadium with camp kids in tow, Sluggo had tackling dummies, pads, balls and pylons out for three stations of drills.

You could hear the tick-tick-tick as he ran these nervous, wide-eyed kids through their paces. When Sluggo detonated, the kids loved it. They burst into tackling dummies and screamed in ecstasy as Ric Suggitt, U.S.A. women’s rugby head coach and the full-time women’s rugby coach at the U of L, howled in delight.

It was pure, unadulterated Sluggo. That’s how he came at you whether you were a miserable old skeptic or a kid whose parents forced him to go to summer camp: With no holds barred.

Sluggo’s passion wasn’t limited to rugby, as his kids and his wife were easy to see at Horns games and practices. Little Buggo ran around with his dad’s zest, if not his size.

Ric will never be the most beloved Pronghorn rugby coach. That’s Neil Langevin. He’ll never be the most successful. That’s Langevin, too. But Sluggo, one of Langevin’s mentors, gets a seat at the table for his love and passion and energy that was hard to keep from infecting everyone around him.

Me, I owe Sluggo a debt that will have to be repaid in another life. While Ric was the kind of dad who lifted his kids up, I’ve let mine down a fair bit.

Sluggo asked my daughter to join the Pronghorns last year. He did paperwork, even snapped a photo. Then, without the knowledge of the local sportswriter, he issued a press release announcing her signing.

See, I knew Sluggo was hired before almost anyone else. I got paid to know these things. Then almost everybody knew my daughter was signed – except me. Sluggo, the devious, maniacal, ridiculous, inspirational coach of the Horns, had me beat.

He also gave me a moment as a father. One of those moments of pride, happiness and relief that don’t come along very often to an overbearing pragmatist like me.

Thanks to Ric Suggitt, I got one of those moments.

He had many. Ask Sluggo about faith, and his always almost-cracking voice would choke up. When his team had faith enough to follow his nutty-professor scheme to victory or his children running around practice for hours, those were his moments of purity. A sacrificial tackle, a new player working hard or a veteran stepping up – those were Sluggo’s jolts of pride and happiness.

He lived an earnest life, committed to his passions and he made every moment blissful.

I only wish he had more of them.

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