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.