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Patience, Recruiting Tool Fuels Hohaia's Task at Aquinas

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Patience, Recruiting Tool Fuels Hohaia's Task at Aquinas

Lance Hohaia is still hard at work coaching even as the Aquinas team hasn't played yet.

Building a rugby program from scratch isn’t easy, but Aquinas College Head Coach Lance Hohaia has some tools at his disposal, plus a patient university and squad to help make it happen.

“I am really excited about the future of the program,” Hohaia told Goff Rugby Report. “We’re slowly building from the ground up and we have full backing from the school. They have given me the time and the opportunity to build something from the ground up. The school has trusted me with the decisions and the planning.”

Hohaia signed on with Aquinas last February and he said he wanted to take his time starting from the beginning—that was, after all, why he left Davenport to join Aquinas. It was a tough decision to make the move, he said, but the opportunity to build a program from nothing was very appealing.

So since last February Hohaia has been recruiting both on-campus and off, and creating a plan that will culminate (at least for the start) with some 7s this spring and a full 15s schedule the fall of 2022.

“It has been tough for the guys not playing through the fall,” said Hohaia, “but they also believe in what we’re building and being part of something special that is starting from scratch. I am very thankful for those guys.”

The recruiting has been key and Aquinas has been adding players who fit not only academically and from a rugby perspective, but in terms of team culture, too. The latest signing was announced on Wednesday, with Grandville (Mich.) HS standout Dominick Hines signing.

“We’ve been selective about the type of recruits for us,” said Hohaia, who played 28 times for the New Zealand national rugby league team, but also played union in his native country. “We’re looking to bring in guys with good academic grades, good character, and good rugby talent. There are standards for the school, and standards for our team, and the players have to be on board with our culture.”

Using the Next Phase Rugby App

One tool that has helped him find players has been the Next Phase Rugby app. Next Phase Rugby is a Goff Rugby Report sponsor and is an app that connects college rugby programs with high school players in a safe, detailed, and controlled way.

To download the app go to NextPhaseRugby.com. 

“Next Phase has been really helpful,” said Hohaia. “While it’s great to travel to see kids you can’t be everywhere. So I do a lot of virtual recruiting. Next Phase is a place we can go where we can check out kids and see their academic strengths and their rugby highlights. With the app I’n able to make and build connections with recruits, and it’s great because it’s always updating and improving and that’s allowed me to broaden our reach even more. We can filter the system based on position or academic grades, so we can see what’s out there.”

Hohaia said he has connected with recruits from states far away that he would never have known about were it not for Next Phase Rugby.

“There are kids you know about, but on Next Phase there are a lot of kids—kids from Iowa or Texas, for example—who I would never have known about. It’s increased our reach by 50%.”

Yes it’s early days for Aquinas College, but we will see them on the 7s pitch this spring, and watch out for the Saints next fall.