Ron Mayes rugby playing career began with age group rugby (6 through12) with the Waitemata rugby club in Henderson, New Zealand. His high school rugby was with Kelston Boy’s High School culminating with two years on the 1st XV. He played three years for the University Engineering School team in the Counties competition in New Zealand with the last year playing for the 1st division team. His playing career ended at the end of that season at the age of 22 when he damaged his knee and had both cartilages removed.
Ron Mayes coached 2nd grade rugby for two years in the Auckland competition before coming to the United States in 1972 on a Fulbright Scholarship to perform post-doctoral research at the Earthquake Engineering Research Center at UC Berkeley.
In 1974, two years after the formation of the Berkeley Old Blues by Tom Trutner, Ned Anderson and John Hanson, Ron was asked to help coach the team with Steve Finau. In 1975, he was appointed the coach and held that position through 1983, working with Jeff Hollings as captain and co-coach. During that time the Old Blues gradually got better and won their first Northern California Club Championship in 1977 and their first Monterey tournament in 1978. They embarked on several Canadian trips beating James Bay, Canada’s top club team, twice in three years. In 1979 the first U.S. National Club Championship was held and the Old Blues were the inaugural champions after two overtime victories. The Old Blues went on to win five National Club Championships while Ron was their coach. In 1980 the Old Blues toured New Zealand playing the top club in each city on the tour. The only loss of the tour was to Takapuna during a cyclone that hit Auckland that day.
In 1976, Ron was appointed coach of the Northern California representative team, the Pelicans, and in 1978 was appointed the coach of Pacific Coast representative team, the Grizzlies, and held both positions through 1982. Ron’s assistant coach for both the Pelican’s and Grizzlies was Rod Sears. In late 1982, Ron was appointed head coach of the United States National Team, the Eagles, a position he held through the first Rugby World Cup in 1987. George Betzler was Ron’s assistant coach throughout his five year tenure as Eagles coach.
The Eagles had two overseas tours during Ron’s tenure, one to Australia in 1983 and the other to Japan in 1985. The Australian Tour was a success despite the large loss to Australia, who had just returned from an unbeaten Tour of the British Isles. The Eagles narrowly lost to both NSW (13-9) and Queensland (14-10) but won three other games (Western Australia, Victoria and NSW Country) before losing to Australia (49-3).
The Japan tour was also a success as the Eagles won all six of their matches on tour, including the Eagles first test match against Japan (16-15).
The first Rugby World Cup in Australia in 1987 had the Eagles grouped with England, Australia and Japan. The Eagles beat Japan (21-18) but lost to both Australia (47-12) and England (33-9). Ron was 12-9-1 as the Eagles head coach.
Ron was one of many that were involved in the technical development side of U.S.A. Rugby in two different time periods. The first was when he was appointed coach of the Eagles. He, along with Jim Perkins and 24 others, formed the first National Technical and Development Committee (NTDC). This included all four of the territorial coaches and selectors plus many others. It was responsible for the first U.S. coaching clinics and certifications, and player development programs. It included significant co-ordination between the four territorial teams and the Eagles with each going on an overseas tour every 2nd year. This effort lost steam in the late 1980s.
Ian Nixon, became President of USARFU in 1992, and charged Ron with resurrecting the National Technical Panel (NTP) in 1993. Ron convinced many of the reluctant early pioneers of the NTDC committee to return and serve again. The NTP committee became quite active and productive from 1993 through 1999. It raised funds to employ George Hook as the first National Technical Director and later added Eddie O’Sullivan as an assistant to both George Hook and Jack Clark, the U.S. National Team head coach at the time.
The NTP organized over 120 Coaching Accreditation clinics with in excess of 1,375 attendees. The NTP also created several major player development programs that were ready to be launched in 2000 but Ron and most of the panel ended their involvement with the NTP in late 1999.
Ron’s involvement with U.S. Rugby (1974 – 1999) was throughout the amateur period of the sport. He believed it was a player’s game and the coaches, managers, selectors and administrators were there to let the players reach their potential and to make the playing experience as enjoyable as possible considering the sacrifices the players made in terms of time and financial commitments. To that end, there were many people that Ron had the pleasure of working with. These included his assistant coaches, Jeff Hollings – Old Blues; Rod Sears – Pelicans and Grizzlies; and George Betzler – Eagles. The team captains – Jeff Hollings and Whit Everett – Old Blues; Jeff Hollings, Ed Burlingham, Skip Neibauer, Whit Everett, Floyd McGaughy – Pelicans and Grizzlies; and Ed Burlingham, Whit Everett and Brian Vizard – Eagles. The team managers included Tom Trutner – Old Blues; Dan Hickey – Pelicans and Grizzlies; Sid Batt, Bob Watkins – Grizzlies; Ken Wood, Bob Watkins and Jeff Lombard – Eagles. Selectors included the ever tireless and most organized Hutch Turner, Keith Seaber, Joe Reagan, Ross Turnbull, Rod Sears, Brad Andrews, Ron Nesbitt, Jim Perkins, Austin Brewin and many others.
Off the rugby pitch, Ron has 40 years of management and technical expertise in earthquake and structural engineering. His technical experience includes working with many of the world’s leading authorities in earthquake and structural engineering and he is highly respected by his peers. He recently served as Secretary/Treasurer of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Structural Engineers Association of Northern California and is a past Vice-President of The Masonry Society.