MacDowell Rugby Academy coming to Cowichan Valley School District

Focus will be on building skills and strong academics

MacDowell Rugby Academy. (Submitted)

MacDowell Rugby Academy. (Submitted)

The Board of Education for the Cowichan Valley School District is thrilled to partner with Robin MacDowell to bring the MacDowell Rugby Academy to Cowichan Secondary School starting in the 2021-22 school year.

With a proven track record of helping foster excellence in students, the MacDowell Rugby Academy will not only focus on building skills for a successful career in rugby and strong academics, but also to foster community leadership in all students.

The program is open to students of all abilities and levels in Grades 10-12. In addition to regular classes, students will also take classes on the principles of sport, athletic leadership and rugby.

“As a board we are committed to providing the highest quality of educational experiences to our students,” noted Candace Spilsbury, chair of the Cowichan Valley School District’s Board of Education. “Offering a world-class rugby academy for students in the valley and beyond truly fits that mandate.”

MacDowell Rugby strives to develop athletes and people by giving them the tools on and off the field to support their academic, athletic and life aspirations. The MacDowell Rugby team strongly identifies with the idea of developing an athlete to reach a potential that would otherwise be untapped. Their main goal for aspiring athletes is to dream big and believe in themselves, which will ultimately help them succeed in rugby and life.

MacDowell was excited about the program being approved by the Cowichan Valley School District. He was grateful to International Student Program Principal Liz Hollands-Gamble for leading the initiative for the Cowichan Valley alongside her Vice Principal Kevin O’Donnell and Cowichan Secondary School Principal Darcy Hoff.

“They all have been instrumental in bringing this program to life,” noted MacDowell. “Liz was my phys-ed teacher at Mount Prevost Middle School and was the first person that lit a fire inside me and told me I could do anything I put my heart into. Her impact on me at that time was life-changing. As she moves onto retirement later this spring, I am thankful that her last legacy was to inspire me to realize this dream to bring a fulltime academy to my hometown.”

A COVID-safe student information session will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 17 at the Cowichan Secondary School gym for interested current students. Quamichan School students will have an information session on Feb. 16 at lunchtime in the Quamichan gym.

For interested families unable to attend the in-person event, a Zoom information session will be hosted at 7 p.m. on Feb. 17. The link for that session can be found on the Cowichan Valley School District, Cowichan Secondary School and Quamichan School Facebook pages.

The program run out of Cowichan Secondary School will safely host athletes from around the world. Registration information will be available by contacting

MacDowell’s been coaching sports for more than 27 years. Born and raised in the Cowichan Valley, he moved to Europe at 19 years old to pursue a professional rugby career in France and Italy. After returning to Canada, he pursued his dreams of being on the Canadian sevens team in The World Sevens Series.

Aside from being involved with rugby at every level across Canada and operating his own Canadian Academy based in Saskatchewan, MacDowell was involved with Rugby Mexico for five years at the international level.


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