Life off the Pitch with Free Jacks' Oliver Engelhart
In a new series of features, Major League Rugby is highlighting the work that players do outside of their rugby commitments. From full time jobs, to side hustles, to starting their own non-profits, MLR athletes prove that they're hard workers both on and off the pitch.
The first player to be highlighted is the New England Free Jacks' Oliver Engelhart. Not only is Engelhart one of the teams scrumhalves, he also performs the role of Operations Associate for the club off the field.
It is a role that sees the former Dartmouth College student heavily involved in the day to day running of the team. He is the man regularly running many of the Free Jacks social media channels, the sides youth events and even the arranging of player and coach interviews. Including this one.
After completing his studies in New Hampshire, Engelhart returned to Hong Kong, where he grew up. Free Jacks CEO, and fellow Dartmouth graduate, Alex Magleby was the scrumhalf's mentor at college, keeping the Collegiate All-American in mind whilst setting up the Free Jacks in advance of their debut MLR season.
"Mag's, the CEO of the Free Jacks, was a mentor of mine from my time at Dartmouth and really pushed me to pursue rugby at a high level," Engelhart said. "After I graduated, I went back to Hong Kong to play for my club team back there and was training with the local Hong Kong sevens team. I got a call in the November of 2018 and was asked if I could make it out to Boston and that they would have loved me to be involved as a player.
"When I was looking at the playing opportunity, it is something that I have always wanted to do, to pursue professionally, especially here in the States where there is a lot of growth possibilities. I also needed to make sure that I could pursue a career at the same time, because I was doing that in Hong Kong as well."
Majoring in international relations and minoring in Chinese, Engelhart was thrust into an entirely new environment in Boston. Having taken ownership of much of the marketing and media for the team, he has now turned his attentions to the launching of the team's academy and how best to grow the number of rugby players in New England.
"A lot of it is having to have some fun, right?" Engelhart said. "When we talk about the Free Jacks, what we do for a live event, what we do for rugby, we always try to talk about the culture we are trying to create and it is hardworking, it is humble, but it is having the most fun you have ever had. We want someone to show up to a festival on a Saturday afternoon having never known rugby and come away thinking it is the best Saturday they have had all year.
"That is the kind of thing we want people to have. As a player, we want to be sure that we are working hard, we are putting the team first, showing up every day with a smile on our faces because it is a really good culture and a really good team. On the business side, I have taken the exact same approaches.
"We are going to have fun whilst we grow something lasting and meaningful. I have learnt a lot and by no means am I a marketing expert. We have learnt from a number of successes and failures, picking up on some things that we could do better for next year. Particularly to do with traditional marketing, trying to get rugby into mainstream publications here in Boston, a major sports town."
Not alone in the Free Jacks squad, in working in a role off the field, Engelhart considers himself lucky to be working in the same building as the one he trains at. New England have adopted a full-time schedule, players being asked to be in their building from 9am to 4pm before going elsewhere, their Operations Associate in awe of those who have other commitments.
"Most players are there for that full day," Engelhart said. "A lot of the guys that are fighting week in, week out for that roster spot, they are the ones that then go from training to working on a fishing boat or head to work a bar or finding some side work as much as they can. Those are the folks I'm super impressed by.
"I see them in that gym at 5am, 6am, heading to training, getting their work in and then rushing off straight away. The expectation for on-field success is still going to remain with the same pressures that players have off the field for getting by. That is something that is going to be a challenge for a lot of players, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate that my office is the same place as we do our review sessions.
"I can put my laptop on my lap whilst we are doing some reviewing and type out a few emails, so I am still there and present. Hopefully my multi-tasking is not terrible. I am incredibly fortunate that I have been able to be both a player on the team, absorbing as much as I can there, whilst also committing myself to help grow the Free Jacks and everything that comes with that."
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Major League Rugby Stories from September 15, 2020
- Life off the Pitch with Free Jacks' Oliver Engelhart - New England Free Jacks
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