It was a busy weekend in deed for Socal Rugby Camps founders Dallen and Marc this past weekend, both different hats at various stages of the annual rugby bonanza in the bright lights of Las Vegas for the USA 7s.
Marc traveled to the Nevada desert as one of the assistant coaches for the USA Maccabiah team, competing in the 15s bracket of the LVI tournament. A special treat was that he was also asked by the Australian 7s coaching staff to be a guest motivational speaker and present the players their match jerseys before the first day of the 3 day competition.
He recaps his account of the experience:
It is an honor and pleasure helping the Maccabiah team prepare for their tournament in Israel this coming June, which occurs every four years. Head Coach Shawn Lipman asked to be involved for the 2013 Maccabiah Games (of which Socal Camps Co-founder Dallen Stanford was the Captain), and I didn’t hesitate to say yes when he asked if I was available for the 2017 Games.
This Vegas Tourney served as the final selection for the squad, and the team looked quite sharp winning both their games convincingly. I also attended the inaugural Maccabiah Rugby Hall Of Fame dinner, where Olympian and Superbowl winner Nate Ebner accepted the award for the induction of his late father Geoff.
With Nate Ebner and USA Maccabiah Captain Kevin Swiryn
I was then fortunate enough to be invited into the Australian 7s camp to speak to the squad and present them their playing jerseys before going into battle. It was particularly emotional for me, and memories came flooding back from the moments back in the day when I was sat in the same position as these current crop of fresh faced players. It was a huge honor, and a day I will cherish always.
With the Australian 7s Squad
Dallen was back in the commentating booth, and he writes this of his experience as one of the six commentators calling the entire 7s tournament at Sam Boyd Stadium:
The 2017 USA Sevens in Las Vegas was definitely one of the rugby highlights of the year – with over 80,000 fans attending the 3-day event! It also marked my 13th USA Sevens – dating back to being a fan at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, in 2005. In 2007 it moved to Petco Park in San Diego, and I was fortunate to play for the USA during all 3 years there – before it moved to Las Vegas in 2010.
I had the honor of joining the World Rugby broadcast again this year in Sin City, and it was a delight to work alongside legends Keith Quinn, Willie Los’e, Sean Maloney, Karl Tenana and Gareth Rees. My role on the World Sevens Series is being a color commentator, and with the South African Blitzboks carving it up this season it was fantastic to announce 5 of their matches over the weekend. What impressed me in both the Women’s and Men’s tournaments was the fantastic skill level of the players, possessing such brilliant vision during pressure situations. The United States Men were superb, coming back to defeat Argentina after trailing 19-0 in the Cup Quarterfinals, plus defeating New Zealand at the death to claim Bronze. The USA Women also produced the magic, finishing Top 4, showcasing how the game has advanced in North America over the last decade.
With USA 7s Coach Mike Friday
With “The Eagle” and USA 7s Captain Maddison Hughes
This coming weekend listen to the World Sevens Series feed in which you’ll hear a South African accent on most of the Blitzboks games and several others. What an amazing adventure rugby is!
‘How do we improve and better serve our community’ is a constant question we ask ourselves at the Institute of Rugby. With a year of programming under our belt, we looked at 2017 with a better understanding of our community and how to better serve those who participate in our programming.
Our goal is to provide the best rugby opportunities for our athletes. We have identified that during the summer training block, while we will continue with a more sevens rugby focus for our U10-U14 athletes, we will revamp our training to be structured in a more compressed time frame. An exclusive environment that creates an opportunity to provide the foundation, development and performance we at the Institute of Rugby pride ourselves on. This compressed training session will be delivered in an overnight, rugby camp experience June 26th - 29th and will be held at EXOS in Carlsbad, CA.
In our efforts to provide the best camp experience for athletes in San Diego, we are proud to announce our partnership with SoCal Rugby Camps to deliver this summer camp experience. SoCal Rugby Camps was founded in 2015 by Marc Stcherbina (Australia 7s, Super Rugby - Waratahs) and Dallen Stanford (USA 7s). Their mission is to increase the skill level of young rugby players in both 15s and 7s, providing fall clinics and summer camps in Los Angeles and San Diego. Nutrition education for sports performance and life is also a key element in the company's 'Food for Champions' program. As an organization they have proven a framework for a productive, fun and enriching summer camp environment. These together provide the perfect mix for our summer offering.
“SoCal Rugby Camps are proud to partner with IOR in providing a quality environment for boys and girls to express themselves on the rugby field. By being positive role models, we aim to use the sport of rugby to showcase its many wonderful values.” - Dallen Stanford, SoCal Rugby Camps co-founder.
"Our goal is to provide the best rugby opportunities for our athletes. When seeking a partnership to aid us in our efforts, SoCal Rugby Camps was an obvious choice. We look forward to bringing this one of a kind experience to our local rugby community." - Matt Hawkins, Institute of Rugby founder.
The founders of Socal Rugby Camps were kept busy last Sunday having been invited as guest coaches of The 7th Annual Fullerton Girls Rugby Camp and also The Institute Of Rugby for a jam packed day spent with nearly 100 future rugby champions.
The day kicked off at 9am sharp at Lions Field in Fullerton where more than 30 aspiring Women’s Eagles gathered to further their rugby skills and understanding thanks to the organization of Ravi Perera through the Fullerton Rugby Foundation.
The theme for our morning session was the short and long rugby pass, with Dallen and Marc each taking a station for 30 mins minutes before changing groups. The technique of both the short and long pass was broken down with some skill development drills, before finishing off each block with some competitive games and relays.
The two groups then came together at the end for a large game of ultimate touch rugby where incorporated the drills from both stations into one large competitive situation.
Girls’ High School All American Coach Farrah Douglas then took the group of talented young athletes and put them through their paces for the rest of the day
After a quick group photo the dynamic duo raced across to EXOS and Institute Or Rugby HQ in Carlsbad to give Head Coaches Matt Hawkins and Hannah Lockwood some assistance by putting their star athletes through a session focusing on hand-eye co-ordination and reaction time.
Coaches Dallen (Slippery Eel) and Matt (Polar Bear) once again couldn’t resist the temptation to compete against each other, joining in on the drills and games and refusing to act their age, blending in nicely with the teenage IOR athletes superstars.
3 one hour blocks were spent with u10 -14 boys, u16 – u18 girls, and then u16-u18 boys respectively, cross pollinating sports by using tennis balls and soccer balls to help develop hand-eye co-ordination, reaction time and handling skills. The coaches were extremely encouraged by the talent and character of the youth rugby players they had the privilege of coaching throughout the day.
Socal Camps will also have a presence at this Saturday’s Fullerton Rugby Family Day, where parents and youth players will have the chance to meet and run around with Coach Dallen at Lions Field from 9am.
If you’re in the area, you won’t want to miss out on the chance to round Coach Dallen like a parked car on the pitch, or shred him about his commentating face to face!
The 2016 USA Rugby Women’s Premier League Championships delivered some of the best rugby in the country – with current Eagles, former Eagles and future stars going head to head – with more hits than the Canadian immigration website!
The top 4 teams arriving at Life University in Marietta, Georgia, were: defending Champions Glendale Raptors, San Diego Surfers, Twin Cities Amazons and New York Rugby. The two conferences crossed over for the semi finals – and it was a try feast for the west coast sides as Glendale defeated New York Rugby 37-13 while the San Diego Surfers took out the Twin Cities Amazons 36-8.
In the other matches – it was the Atlanta Harlequins that beat the Berkeley All Blues 26-14, while ORSU got the better of the D.C. Furries 37-5.
Results – Friday, November 11th 2016
5th Place Semi Final: Atlanta Harlequins 26 Berkeley All Blues 14
5th Place Semi Final: ORSU 37 – DC Furries 5
Championship Semi Final: Glendale Raptors 37 – New York Rugby 13
Championship Semi Final: San Diego Surfers 36 – Twin Cities Amazons 8
Results – Sunday, November 13th 2016
7th Place: Berkeley All Blues 48 – DC Furries 5
5th Place: ORSU 15 – Atlanta Harlequins 10
3rd Place: New York Rugby 29 – Twin Cities Amazons 10
WPLChampionship Final: San Diego Surfers 26 – Glendale Raptors 16
The broadcast team pictured above (L to R: Dallen Stanford, KT Wurst & Marc Stcherbina)
Marc and I teamed up for this busy weekend departing Los Angeles on Thursday, announced the WPL matches on Friday, then caught a late flight back to Los Angeles to announce the USA Eagles Men’s clash against Romania. The match took place in Bucharest – but we did a remote commentary broadcast from Los Angeles – amazing how technology has changed over the years! We then took the 4-hour flight back to Atlanta on Saturday night ahead of Sunday’s WPL finals – what a doozy!
The WPL competition is such a fantastic opportunity for USA Eagles coaches to scout national team players – especially this fall as the USA take on France on November 22 & 25. I’ve had the honor of announcing both the 2014 & 2015 WPL competitions – and it was evident how the standard of play has risen amongst all teams taking part. The Glendale Raptors won both the 2014 edition (in a dramatic style) at Life University and the 2015 competition at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado.
There were so many brilliant players on display – which makes it almost impossible to just choose 15 that make our Tournament Dream Team. Some sensation that just missed out included: Katy Augustyn & Lauren Rhode (Berkeley All Blues), Maggie Olney & Kristen Maxey (D.C. Furies), Sylvia Braaten & Stacey Bridges, (injured on Friday, Twin Cities Amazons), Molly Kinsella & Tia Blythe (San Diego Surfers), Ashley Nesby & Evelyn Ashenbrucker (New York Rugby), Laketa Sutton & Liz Snodgrass (Harlequins), Candace Mahoney-Watson & Zoe Wilson (ORSU), Sarah Chobot & Patsy Ford (Glendale Raptors).
We have moved some players around to accommodate the best 15 on display – and of course this is just our opinion.
2009: New York Rugby
2010: New York Rugby
2011: Berkeley All Blues
2012: Berkeley All Blues
2013: Twin Cities Amazons
2014: Glendale Raptors
2015: Glendale Raptors
2016: San Diego Surfers
We are so pleased to share that our first ever backline specific coaching clinic last weekend in San Diego was a great success!
The two day clinic was split over two venues in Encintas. The indoor video presentation portion of the clinic was held on both Saturday and Sunday morning at Encinitas Boxing and Fitness, which involved a breakdown of topics like Backline Attack and Defense principles, types of set piece attack and team defensive systems. Coach Marc and Dallen gave a thorough analysis of each topic, accompanied by video clips and anecdotal recollections from the ‘good ol playing days’ to demonstrate the material.
From the indoor session, coaches and players travelled down the road to beautiful Encinitas Community Park where a healthy, nutritious and tasty meal was enjoyed by all supplied by Seaside Market in Cardiff.
Once the food had settled, the attendees were put through their paces with a practical session, focusing on what had been presented in the morning, with the introduction of some drills and games to use at practice sessions both individually and as a backline.
We had the privilege of San Diego Pro team scrum half Charlie Purdon’s expertise on Saturday afternoon to run our scrum half specific section of the course. Charlie took the group through basic passing development from the ground, how to probe around the ruck defense, and also tactical kicking from various parts of the rugby field.
The afternoon session on Sunday focused mainly on wing and fullback play, although all positions were involved in the drills, particularly the counter attack drills, and 1 v 1 evasion and tracking drills.
While the center position was featured a lot on Saturday, there was still plenty of center specific work to get through on Sunday, with peripheral vision development explained and practiced providing some challenging and enjoyable moments.
There was a great mix of players and coaches in attendees of different age and gender, each looking for a high performance experience. We have received some great feedback already, including this testimonial from Coastal Dragons coach and former president Ed Petersen:
Coaches were also able to earn themselves 10 USA Rugby Coaching Developing Credits for attending both days of the course. If you missed out on this clinic, don't despair, as SoCal Camps is already planning on hosting more in the near future. Feel free to reach out and suggest to us when and where you would like us to conduct another backline specific clinic.
Our first ever San Diego youth rugby camp took place directly after the highly successful and busy Los Angeles camp! The University of San Diego hosted our 25 rugby sensations at their amazing campus from July 18 to 21.
The campers represented local teams like the Coastal Dragons, Mustangs, Fallbrook, Valley Center Avengers - plus some further away like Santa Monica, Pasadena and Santa Clarita. We even had two players represent the great State of Texas (Plano and El Paso), one from Utah, plus our first international athlete from India!
Day 1 - Monday July 18
Rugby players and parents arrived first thing in the morning, fresh for what would be a wonderful week at the first-ever SoCal Rugby Camps event in San Diego. The various age groups saw participants divided into u10 - u12 and u14 - u18. One of the most exciting aspects for us was offering an opportunity for both male and female athletes to take part. To date - SoCal Rugby Camps is the only residency camp open to both male and female rugby players in Southern California.
Following check-in, the fun and games began, with various ice breaker games used to introduce all the players to each other. The bonding happens very quickly on the rugby field - and in no time new friendships were being formed. We then put the players through various skills and games to test everyone’s ability, and to help shape the players development throughout the week.
After our lunch we enjoyed a classroom session and watched video and completed a quizz on the USA Women’s Eagles - and in particular the four special guests that would join us that afternoon: Kelly Griffin (Captain, Team USA), Jillion Potter, Alev Kelter and JJ Javelet!
When their much anticipated arrival finally came, the stars spoke to the group about their sporting backgrounds, how they found rugby, their dreams to play in Rio2016 and fielded plenty of questions from the eager youngsters! We were so impressed with these role models, and so appreciative that they took time out of their schedule to visit with us just a week before representing Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games!
Day 2 - Tuesday July 19
Another new SoCal Rugby Camps shirt was provided - and of course a quick team photo taken before the rugby games began. Five field sessions took place on the superb turf field at the University of San Diego before our Olympic athletes arrived.
After lunch, it was off to the classroom once again with state of the art equipment and seating, where we enjoyed a video session about the history and meaning of the New Zealand Haka. The campers were split into groups with various age groups, and challenged to create and choreograph their own haka to be performed back on the field later that afternoon.
The groups showed great teamwork, with some leaders in the pack emerging, but most importantly, it led to a very entertaining spectacle to say the least!
Day 3 - Wednesday July 20
The young sensations were buzzing with excitement following the USA Women’s visit, and today they got a chance to work alongside several players from PRO Rugby North America. San Diego Breakers Head Coach Ray Egan addressed our group, which was followed by a Q&A with Joe Taufete'e (USA 15s), Mike Sosene-Feagai (USA 15s), Ryan Matyas (USA 15s & 7s), Andrew Suniula (USA 15s), Phil MacKenzie (Canada 15s & 7s), Hubert Buydens (Canada 15s), Charlie Purdon (San Diego Breakers), Mason Pedersen (San Diego Breakers) and Cecil Garber (San Diego Breakers). These legends then worked with our campers - with several impressing the professionals!
The afternoon session was filled with photographs, signatures and working alongside Olympic athletes Carlin Isles, Perry Baker, Nate Augspurger as well as USA Men’s 7s Rio2016 trialists Kevin Swiryn (USA 15s & 7s) and Thretton Palamo (USA 15s & 7s). What an honor to learn from these international rugby stars, and some of our campers even got to race the world’s fastest rugby player - Carlin Isles!
In the evening our overnight campers had a rare opportunity to work alongside Coach Dallen in the commentating booth - providing color analysis to some of the Sevens World Series matches. After feedback from Coach Dallen and Coach Marc, the challenge was laid down to see which two players could perform the best match commentary! It was a fantastic experience with Angel and Rowan showing the most promise in the broadcast booth.
Day 4 - Thursday Jul 21
Our final day of camp saw special guest Cam Trickey - former Australian Rules Football professional - teach us all about kicking technique and styles. His kicking accuracy was beautiful to watch, helping both the Cubs (u10-12) and Grizzlies (u14-18) improve kicking out of hand, and at goal.
Later that day we finished things off with a full field game of Capture the Flag, followed by touch rugby with all coaches and campers going at it like it was the Olympic Games!
At the closing ceremony, we handed out a bunch of awards, the most notable being the "Slippery Eel" rugby performance award for both the Cubs (u10 - u14) and the Grizzlies (u16 -u18), and the ‘Sleek Sensation Camper of the Week" award for campers who epitomized the Socal Rugby Camps ethos, which is not only about rugby ability and performance, but carries other important attributes like, sportsmanship, respect for the coaches and other campers, coachability, and also leadership.
The Slippery Eel award for outstanding rugby performance was given to the following recipients:
Girl Cub - Italia Clark
Boy Cub - Declan Cadden
Girl Grizzly - Amber Ringler
Boy Grizzly - Jonathan Haley
The Sleek Sensation camper of the week award went to:
Girl Camper - Makenna Navas
Boy Camper - Zander Karr
We also gave a "Golden Boot" award to the best kicker, which was awarded to Wesley Tyler, who was slotting drop goals over from everywhere and rarely beaten when challenged to a field goal dual!
Thank you to all the parents and participants for choosing to spend 5 fabulous days with us.
It was a brilliant week with so many new friendships being made, with rugby skills and life lessons to be taken away! Thank you so much to all our rugby guests for inspiring a new generation of rugby stars, and of course our own hot steppers in Coach Eli, Coach Lani and Coach Mollie.
Next year we plan on having two summer camps in San Diego, and we are also planning on a clinic this fall. So stay tuned and be sure to put us in your calendar as soon as dates are released.
It was certainly a case of “fun in the sun” during Socal Rugby Camps second ever LA summer youth rugby camp held in Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey last month.
Over 40 campers between the age of 8 and 18 enjoyed 5 days of fun-filled activities, some with and without a rugby ball.
The camp split between two venues, with Clover Park being the setting for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with the week being broken up by a beach day on Wednesday on the picturesque Marina Del Rey peninsula.
Day 1 - Monday July 11
Draped in their Orange Socal Rugby Camps T-shirts, campers were full of beans on the 1st day of camp which was aimed at having everybody getting to know each other, kicking off with a few icebreaker and name learning games.
The campers were split into 3 typical working groups: u10s, u12s – u14s, and u16s – u18s, with all 3 groups put through a mixture of rugby technical skill drills and games throughout the day.
After a delicious lunch which featured grilled salmon, tri tip steak, and salad, the campers sat down in the Mobot amphitheater to watch rugby videos and take part in a Q & A with San Diego Breakers Pro Rugby Player Jabari Zuberi.
Day 2 - Tuesday July 12
Tuesday meant blue Socal Rugby Camps shirt day at Clover Park and more fun and excitement for campers.
The older group (Grizzlies) enjoyed the kicking skills and Aussie Rules games, while the Cubs worked on passing and evasion skills.
After chicken, pesto pasta and Italian salad satisfied the troops, the campers were enthralled with the day’s video feature in the Mobot amphitheater which was centered around the history and meaning of the New Zealand All Black haka.
Campers then formed 5 groups of varying ages and were required to rehearse and perform their own haka to the entire group, with prizes up for grabs for the best performance..
Day 3 - Wednesday July 13
It was a beautiful day in LA and the perfect time to hit the beach. Campers were greeted at the end of the Marina Peninsula and handed their brand new white shirts before setting off for camp HQ by the water’s edge.
With games like rugby baseball, rugby volleyball, and ultimate Frisbee, campers worked up a huge hunger in time for their Mediterranean themed lunch served by Food For Champions Chef Phil Lydeard who had now understandably become the firm favorite of all the coaches.
Most of the day was spent in and out of the water, with some Australian inspired Surf Life Saving races keeping the campers occupied, and overall a fun day had by all.
Day 4 - Thursday July 14
Thursday was Olympics day at Clover Park in Santa Monica.
Campers were asked to wear the costume or uniform of their favorite Olympic sport and their were some outstanding efforts, with the prizes for best two outfits going to Tristan Cutress for his Taikwando dobok and Gavin Conboy for his fencing get up, including mask and foil which were promptly confiscated by father Ray once the full outfit had been displayed to the judges.
The rest of the day would be all about the Olympics, with videos about the Rio 2016 Games and the USA Men and Women Rugby players who will be competing for gold over the next week!
Olympic style events were also conducted throughout the day such as Rugby Ball Discus.
Special guest Justin Boyd - former USA 7s Eagle - was on hand to work with the campers on attacking skills in both 15s and 7s. all.
Day 5 - Friday July 15
Another hot, sunny day smiled upon the camp for its final day, with most campers a little leg weary and tired from a week of non-stop action, but excited to close out the camp with a bang.
The objective for the day was to send campers home to their parents as tired and satisfied as possible, so many a high intensity game was played, including finishing off with the crowd favorite, “capture the flag” where all ages were tossed into the mix for maximum interaction and enjoyment.
At the closing ceremony, the ‘Sleek Sensation Camper of the Week" award was handed out to the campers who epitomized the Socal Rugby Camps ethos, which is not only about rugby ability and performance, but carries other important attributes like, sportsmanship, respect for the coaches and other campers, coachability, and also leadership. We had a sleek sensation award handed out to boys and girls from each of the 3 typical age divisions as follows:
u10 Girl - Ila Bagnara
u10 Boy - Stephan Lyons
u12/u14 Girl - Mia Bagnara
u12/14 Boy - Liam Carthy
u16/u18 Girl - India Horns
u16/u18 Boy - Remy Wood
Thank you to all the parents and participants for choosing to spend 5 fabulous days with us.
A special thank you to the following coaches for your commitment and effort throughout the week:
Eli Mandel, Zach Bonte, Danny Thomas, Shawn Lee, Danny Carpio, Sean (Thor) Pypers, Justin Boyd, Allen Corruth, Badra Wilson.
An extra special thank you to our Food For Champions Master Chef Phil Lydeard for providing amazing food, and the highlight of every camper's day...every single day!
We have laid the foundation for an even better camp next summer, and we hope to see all of our campers from this time at next year's summer camp...unless you're too old of course, in which case we might need your help!
One of our favorite features of our SoCal Rugby Camps is the ‘Food For Champions Program’. It is an opportunity for us to educate young people about nutrition for sports performance and also a healthy lifestyle.
In the second year of the program, our highly trained Master Chef and Head Program Lecturer Phil Lydeard will be serving up a new and improved list of tasty treats at our West Los Angeles Camp from July 11th – 15th.
Phil sat down with us to chat more about his involvement with the program and the delicious menu this year’s campers can expect.
Q. Why did you come on board with SoCal Rugby Camps?
A. First and foremost to help grow the game of rugby in the USA. I have been fortunate to have so many great experiences through rugby over my life and it all starts with youth. The chance to get young people playing rugby is very exciting for me. I have also know Marc and Dallen for a couple of years and anything associated with these two coaches who have such great experience is something I want to be a part of.
Q. What is your role at the camps?
A. I run the ‘Food for Champions’ program that provides everyone at SoCal Rugby camps (coaches as well) with fresh, nutritious snacks and meals throughout the day that will fuel the young athletes with what they need. In addition to this I also offer short nutrition and smart eating sessions with all the students to help give them the information they need to live healthy lives. When I get the chance I also love the to run around and help Marc and Dallen with the excellent coaching sessions.
Q. What makes ‘Food for Champions’ different from other camps?
A. ‘Food for Champions’ is special because we are lucky enough to have generous sponsorship from the Episcopal School of Los Angeles that allows me to provide fresh ingredients, prepared daily and offer a wide range of dishes over the course of the week. We use minimally processed products to create dishes that the kids love and don’t really even notice that they are eating healthy. ‘Food for Champions’ does not provide food focused around kids, I prepare food that I would eat and happily serve to anyone.
Q. You talk about healthy food – what does that mean to you?
A. For me healthy food is a very simple concept, use natural produce and prepare it in simple ways that bring out its natural flavor. I do not subscribe to any specific ‘trendy’ diets that rule out any types of food, especially for young people who are growing and being active. I think it is important to understand what food is providing for your body and build a plate from there. My favorite rule of thumb is the 80:20 rule, if 80% of what you eat is natural, unprocessed food you can’t go to far wrong.
Q. What kind of foods can we expect to see this year at the West LA SoCal Rugby Camp?
A. This year I am building a daily buffet that will center on different world cuisines for different days of the camp. Our snacks will be mainly fresh fruit with the occasional baked treat for when the kids (and coaches) need a little energy boost. See the below schedule for the daily lunches.
When Matt Hawkins reached out to me to see if I would be interested in helping him coach the Boys High School Socal Griffins All Stars, I just couldn’t say no, despite my already overflowing plate of responsibilities.
As I learn more about the youth rugby landscape in America, I am seeing just how many kids are playing, and how rapidly the sport is growing, especially the women's version. There are some similarities to what I experienced as a developing rugby player in Australia, yet there are also many differences as American rugby still tries to find its feet, particularly when it comes to creating pathways for kids to progress through to National representative honors.
The Southern California Griffins concept for me holds a special connection with my rugby formative years. Being selected to represent my region was a huge honor and was my first introduction to the representative team process. It was the gateway drug to playing high level, high pressure International rugby, but was more importantly my first experience of learning to work together with new team mates who were normally my opposition.
It was important for myself, Matt Hawkins and the other management team members Reuben Spilkin, Jason Harper, Ed Petersen and Patrick Lundqvist to help keep the regional All Star torch lit, particularly with the threat of the Griffins program dissipating as a result of other emerging rugby programs providing high performance alternatives.
We had big shoes to fill in maintaining the strength of the Socal region on the West Coast, after Jeff Bonnett from Back Bay and his coaching team had done such a fine job with the program for the last 4 years. The Great Northwest Challenge in Portland, OR would be the stage this year to attempt the continuation of Socal’s dominance, and we had 3 months to prepare our athletes for the huge battle at hand.
We had big shoes to fill after the Victorious Griffins of 2015
I have a new appreciation of the challenging process involved with identifying and bringing together Socal’s top rugby players, beginning with a mini regional All Star tournament involving teams from Los Angeles, Orange County, Tri Counties and San Diego.
Once selected for a Junior Varsity or Varsity training squad from this tournament, players then met for a series of training sessions after which the final 25 for each age group would be chosen to wear the Socal colors in Portland.
For the week leading up to the tournament, players went through final preparations at a training camp in San Diego, as a last effort to find cohesion and learn the game plan before the weekend’s competition.
Mini Camp in Encinitas
Once in Portland, there was barely time to breathe. Moving 50 teenagers between venues to play 4 games in 2 days is no easy task. Oregon State University accommodated every team of the tournament, and did it superbly. It was a great way for players to not only bond with each other, but also interact with other teams and soak up the excitement generated by the occasion.
Day 1 of competition was a success for us on the pitch, with both Varsity and JV ending the day 2 – 0 winning their respective pools. This meant that on the final day, the two teams would play the winners of the other 2 pools in what is essentially the Finals.
One great tradition of the tournament which I was particularly impressed with, was after each game, the two teams would mix together and link arms to form a circle, while the two captains would present the MVP of the opposing team with a medal. This is the kind of sportsmanship for which rugby is renowned.
Sportsmanship at it's finest
It was a tough day in the office for the Varsity team, being outmuscled in both games by powerful and well drilled Northern Californian sides, ending the tournament in a respectable 3rd place.
The JV side faired better winning the first final of the day, setting up a show down for top spot against NorCal Sacramento Valley. In a close, hard fought match, our JV Griffins were edged out 7 -12 and finished 2nd overall in the tournament.
The JV Griffins enjoyed a hard fought win over the Rhino Rugby Academy
Our girls Varsity and JV girls also represented SoCal valiantly, with varsity losing out to Norcal in a thrilling final to finish second overall, and JV get off to a slow start but ending strong to take 3rd place overall.
Michel Navarro on the charge for the Girls Varsity Griffins
So all in all, despite not getting the results we ultimately desired, it was still a positive experience and a great opportunity for me to play a part in these young athletes’ development, not just as rugby players, but as humans also. I look forward to the next installment of youth representative rugby, but before then, I will have another chance to work with these sensational young ruggers at both our L.A. camp and San Diego Camp this month.
If you haven’t signed up yet, what are you waiting for??! Sign up below!
The list of International rugby stars appearing at our San Diego Youth Rugby Camp from July 18 - 21 just keeps growing!
There will also be an impressive list of USA Eagles including:
There's still time to sign up and make sure you don't miss your chance to rub shoulders with and learn from some of America's finest rugby talent. Who knows, maybe Carlin Isles will even challenge you to a race...