For American coach and Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme member Boyd LeJeune, rugby is about so much more than just the game.
LeJeune is an intriguing character, gaining a range of coaching experience in the United States at both club and university level and currently on a visit to the UK to take part in the innovative Premiership Rugby Scholarships scheme.
But the 47-year-old represents so much more than just a coach, working in training and development at the Office of Juvenile Justice in the US state of Louisiana.
LeJeune travels round his home state engaging with troubled youths who are on parole, seeking to introduce them to rugby and employing the sport as a vehicle for social change.
But his work responsibilities are currently on hold as he takes part in the Scholarships programme, a-once-in a-lifetime experience where Premiership Rugby is currently providing 26 coaches from the US the chance to travel to England for a week to hone their skills.
The winners are being provided with a comprehensive introduction to the intricacies of working at a top-tier rugby club, visiting Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints and Wasps while also completing a Level 300 training course delivered by Premiership Rugby and USA Rugby.
And as the scheme kicks off this week, LeJeune says he is having the time of his life – seizing the opportunity to interact and engage with a range of new people.
“It was incredibly exciting for me when I found out I’d got a place on the scheme – I was walking out to my car and got a message saying I’d been selected and I just thought ‘this cannot be real!’” he reflected.
“I was really excited to learn and meet a group of new people – it’s been such a valuable experience so far and I love hearing about people’s personal stories and the certain values that they hold.
“Everyone feels very comfortable around everyone in this group – I’ve really enjoyed the emotional intelligence and mental side of things on the programme.
“It’s a very comfortable and trusting atmosphere we’ve got among this group, especially considering we’ve only just met each other.
“I’m a pretty good judge of people and we’ve really built a family community and I think we can stay in contact for a long time.
“People love to belong to something when it is powerful and positive. This is a very inclusive atmosphere, and everyone feels like they can belong, so it’s a great thing.
“This experience has been great – to have that exposure is amazing and I have found it incredibly valuable so far.”
LeJeune has accumulated a diverse range of experience back in the US, coaching at Louisiana State University between 2007 and 2014 before relocating to a coaching position at Louisiana State University of Alexandria five years ago.
And it was there where he developed a real connection with the students he was coaching, guiding them to national finals in his first two years and having a tangible impact on the standard of rugby.
But disaster struck in 2017 when the rugby programme was cut from the university’s agenda and LeJeune and his players were forced to stop doing what they loved.
The 47-year-old now coaches at Baton Rouge Rugby Football Club in Louisiana, recently taking some time out because of dislocating his knee but soon returning for the arrival of new recruits – both male and female.
But it’s in his day job where LeJeune derives the most personal satisfaction, viewing the game of rugby as so much more than merely a sport and instead a means of bringing happiness into people’s lives.
“I always want to get as many kids involved in the game as I can,” he added. “In my job, I work with kids who have been placed on parole for a range of crimes, trying to develop them as people and using the game of rugby to help achieve that.
“I feel I play a real personal development role – I’m trying to improve people as individuals, using rugby as a tool and a mechanism for achieving that.
“I try and build relationships with them, find new ways to achieve their goals and understand what those kids need, and the whole thing has really been a very rewarding experience for me.
“Being here in England now though is incredibly exciting. It is really top-notch and the focus of the programme is just all so positive – all I’ve seen is completely positive body language
“Everyone is excited and looking forward to what they’re going to do next – it’s really, really great and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Applications for the 2020 Scholarship visit will open in January 2020. To be in with a chance of winning, you will need to submit a video outlining how the experience will positively impact your coach delivery and you must have completed your USA Rugby Level 200 coaching qualification prior to the trip.
In addition to the Friends of the British Council and USA Rugby the following partners have been instrumental in the Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme: Austin Huns Rugby Club, Austin Valkyries Women’s Rugby Club, Carolina’s Geographic Rugby Union, Glendale Raptors, Rugby ATL, Rugby United New York, Rugby New Jersey, Saint Thomas Aquinas Rugby, Southern California Rugby Football Union and the United States Rugby Foundation.