The folks that run the Queensland Rugby Union coaching courses have passed on some clips (below) from their various clinics ... For more information on the QRU, or to register, visit http://www.qru.com.au/qru/qru.rugby/page/67050
The Roff Drill for a simple overload and re-alignment activity, developed many years ago by Joe Roff while playing for the ACT Brumbies. The Activity develops both attacking and defensive realignment skills as well as attacking with, and defending against an overload in a dynamic situation.
Mark Bell Interview – 6 Principals of Scrummaging
Scrummaging 1v1 Progression Example
Video-Based Decision-Making (best viewed full screen & high quality)
Hooker – Post engagement shoulder technique
Front on Defense Technique
Catch/Pass Technique Demonstration
Catch/Pass Footage Examples Lecture
Ball Carrier into Contact - Tackle Contest Technique Demonstration
Tackle Contest - Ball Carrier Footage Examples
Saturday, December 06, 2008
The folks that run the Queensland Rugby Union coaching courses have passed on some clips (below) from their various clinics ... For more information on the QRU, or to register, visit http://www.qru.com.au/qru/qru.rugby/page/67050
Thursday, December 04, 2008
It's the off season now, and players are either in recovery mode or off season training mode.
I recently received an inquiry from a player recovering from some minor joint injuries for some pool training.
Anyone out there have any good pool workouts?
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I heart thanksgiving. It's really the only holiday I really and truly celebrate. So, while we're thinking of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, string bean casserole, corn, sweet potatoes w/marshmallows, cranberry sauce, gravy, apple pie and pumpkin pie, enjoy some november highlights ...
Best of luck to both programs in their 7s World Cup rehersal ... track the womens experience here .
Congrats to everyone in the U19NASC and the red/white game .
Props to Candice from DC on her Obermann appearance .. here.
And happy Thanksgiving to everyone courtesy of our favorite gun-toting vice presidential nominee ... here.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
We train at field next to a playground/community center in a West Philly neighborhood. Every day there's an interesting assortment of kids out - some love us and are constantly tossing rugby balls around, hitting tackle dummies, etc. Some just see as as people occupying their playground space and interfering with their ability to toss around a football or hit some baseballs any time they want. "PERMIT? Lady, we were here first!" (ie playground rules apply).
Regardless of which kids are out at the playground that day, it's usually an entertaining and highly interactive experience.
Yesterday at training, one of our players was working on her throw-ins (hooker). She was interacting with one of the more colorful kids - (he's about 3 feet tall, sweet as cherry pie one day, and the next - he's got the mouth of a sailor who's having abdominal surgery with no anesthesia).
Dialog follows ...
Player to kid: So, are you gonna play rugby when you get bigger?
Kid to player: No WAY ..... Rugby is for GIRLS
Out of the mouths of babes ... :)
Thursday, October 09, 2008
I've heard two pretty interesting and very different statements over my career from two VERY successful coaches.
"Sometimes you just have to play defense long enough to figure out how to win".
"I don't coach defense, I coach turning over the ball, and offense."
What do you think? How much of your time is spent during any given session, week, or season on defense?
Friday, August 29, 2008
Pass the word (shameless self promotion of my club):
Philadelphia Women's Rugby is proud to present our first ever Women's Rugby Calendar for 2009! This calendar is filled with high quality action shots of some of the top women's rugby teams and players. Calendars are $25 each or two for $40. Proceeds benefit the Philadelphia Women's Rugby Football Club.
Attached is a screen shot of "July", featuring the Atlanta Harlequins vs the Raleigh Venom.
Each month features a top matchup from games and all over the country (not just pumpkinfest as I previously posted ... sorry!) including shots from the National Round of 16 and the National Championships in 2007. We've got teams from all across the country, including Berkeley, ORSU, and the Amazons.
More previews and order information is available at www.albrightstudio.com/anthony. html
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I can't help but notice, reading the rugby news sites (Gainline, ERN aka Goff) how much venom is in the comments. What's it all about? Winning - specifically, the lack thereof.
Whether its our MNT or our WNT, age grade or seniors, it's the same. Everyone wants results from our national teams, and if those results don't come the moment we want them, the masses rally with pitchforks and torches, ready to storm the castle.
We complain about money, salaries, resources, etc. We complain about assemblies and foreigners, and boards and grants. We whine about what other countries have, and focus on what we do not.
Well, this is America. So why don't we talk about America - after all that's what this is all about, and we have, quite surely, lost sight of what that means.
Sports, at the international level, are so much more than just demonstrations of skill. Our sports teams reflect our successes and failings as a culture and as a society. Our sports teams reflect our social and political identity. Our sports teams reflect how we live our lives and how we conduct ourselves in the face of adversity.
International athletic competition, at its most base level, is a metaphor for war. It is a way for civilized cultures to test their mettle against each other in a way that doesn't involve loss of life or territory. No where is this clearer than in the most recent Olympic games - one only need look at the medal race between the USA and China to realize - these Americans aren't just competing to see if they are faster, fitter, or can better nail a vault but to demonstrate that athletes don't need to be political prisoners in order to be successful.
It's not just a test of our physical and mental toughness, it's a test of our ability to organize, its a test of our technology, it's a test of our leadership.
If anyone out there thinks that China wasn't sending a message about their organization, technical superiority, and unity of purpose, watch the opening ceremonies again.
Some quick historical reminders of how international sports aren't really about speed, agility, or quickness:
- Adolf Hitler and the 1932 games
- Jessie Owens response to Adolf Hitler and the 1932 games
- USA vs Russia, the Miracle on Ice, during the height of the cold war.
- USA's boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980, in protest of Soviet aggression in Afghanistan.
- The massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich games in 1972
- The bombing at the Atlanta games by white supremist Eric Rudolf in 1996
If national sports teams are a reflection of who we are as a nation, what does that reflection look like, for rugby?
I see players, men and women, who reflect a vastly diverse cross section of our population. We have 'foreign born players'? Well, we have foreign born Americans. We have gay and lesbian players? Well, we have and protect that diversity in America.
Our support of womens national teams and programs reflects our commitment to equality and women's rights, our cultural and social diversity reflects our commitment to embrace social and cultural diversity as a country.
But we are losing our @#*(, if I may speak bluntly. So I'm asking everyone out there ... what have YOU, personally, done to help our national team programs - both genders, all age groups? Anything?
What can you do?
Our national team coaches need players to come into the system fit, skilled, smart, and tough. They need to step into their first assembly with skills and smarts. No one coach needs this any more than any other. If we started from scratch with new coaches in every single position, they would still need players who were fit, skilled, smart, and tough. You have the power to make that happen.
How? We need to step out of comfort zones and start learning from each other. We need to start working with each other, not against each other. First and foremost, we need to start asking "How can I help?", and never stop asking.
Go to a coaching clinic. Don't like the material presented? Then get something from the other coaches. Go to someone else's practice. Have someone else run yours. Step out of your silo. Some of the best coaching in our country are at the collegiate level and even at the youth level. Talk to them. Watch them. Ask them what they do. Who cares that you coach superleage and they coach College? I bet you'll still leave the session with something new to try, or a new way to present the information.
Find a coaching partner, who can watch you coach and help you improve. Watch him or her, and help him improve.
Question everything you do. Push yourself.
Volunteer to host camps & events. If funding is a problem for our national teams, let's find ways to use the resources we have, so our men and women and boys and girls don't have to pay for them.
DO SOMETHING. BE PART OF THE SOLUTION.
If we want rugby to be embraced by Americans, American's rugby people need to start embracing rugby. All the way. And that means we all need to start working harder - we need actions, not words, plans instead of just ideas.
We need leadership, and when leaders are identified and chosen, we need to support and trust them, and give them time to build something. We need to support and trust our leaders AND the players the select, their jobs are hard enough as it is without them having to fight a never-ending internal battles.
We need to start treating our national teams, our players and coaches, as the flag bearers for our country. We need to embrace all that is great about being American, and inject that into the heart and soul of every player or coach wearing a jersey or polo - whether they were born here or not. Bottom line, players need to want to play for the USA because they want to represent the USA - not just because it's cool, they get a trip to a foreign country, a few weeks off work, and maybe a pro contract.
We need to practice singing the National Anthem, and when we sing it, we need to sing it with love not just for the game, but for the freedoms and opportunities that being AMERICAN give us. And we need to find away for EVERY player with the desire, heart, and skill to represent America to get there, not just the players who can afford it.
So I'm putting out an open call to everyone coaching rugby out there, and I'm gonna ask ... what are you going to do? What specific, measurable, step are YOU going to take to help? If you're willing to share an idea here, let's see it. No bitching or moaning, no whining. Just action. What are you going to do?
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Highlights courtesy of Escher Rugby Club. I've been going back and forth trying to get the quality up without the bandwidth sucking, and I've basically given up. Presented for your pleasure are 2 different players. The youtube player is lower fidelity, but will start playing quickly.
The podbean player will you you nice high fidelity, but takes forever.
High (scroll down):
Download the full match here, in it's entirety. Be forewarned, its a 441 meg file - you are on your own for download support.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
I just got this from Julie McCoy, the WNT 7s coach. What I particularly like is the call to anyone who thinks they've got the right 7s stuff, to contact her, and prove it.
So if you believe you are the @*#$ at 7s, contact her.
The US Women's 7s TU committee, in conjunction with the US Women's 7s Coaching Staff are holding an informal "7s Challenge Cup" tournament in Chicago, Illinois, July 18,19.
The US U23, and TU teams will be competing as a "warmup" venue for 7s ITTs to be held in Pittsburgh, PA, Aug 23-25.
This summer will mark the end of scouting opportunities for selection of the World Class Cup Squad, that will be practicing and playing together Sept 2008 culminating in the 7s World Cup, March 2009.
If you want to be seen, but haven't had the opportunity to make it to your TU camp, please contact Julie McCoy, the US Women's 7s coach for assitance. The US Team is interested in ANY player, which includes those in the Club 7s/15s system, collegiate, or the D2 level.
Julie McCoy: email@example.com
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
As brought to you from yourscrumhalfconnection, these videos are just TOO GOOD for one blog...
Friday, June 20, 2008
Got a few more clips for this one. Tries are first, followed by some other memorable sequences.
Try #1 v Midwest U23. Off a driving lineout, Katy Black( prop, Westchester) peels off the back and is shut down just short of the tryzone. Kara Bodison (lock, PSU) is in support, picks, and dives in for the try.
Try #2 v Midwest U23. Kate Daley (#8, PSU) picks off the back of a solid scrum and dashs strong for the try.
Try #3 v Midwest U23. Kate Daley (#8, PSU) picks off the back of a solid scrum and dashs weak for the try.
Try # 4 v Midwest U23. From a scrum, the backs run a blind side attack using Danielle Monica (Temple). She is well defended, but in the follow up forward attack sequence, after several phases, Blythe Hagan (Lock, Brandywine) dives in for the score.
Try #5 v Midwest U23. Midwest lose the ball in their own end, and MARFU move it sketchily through the hands. Moira Somerdky (center, Temple) powers through the defenders and touches down for the final try of the game.
Scrum tackle tackle poach kick catch run
A Midwest driving lineout is foiled
COLLISION: Moira vs Schmarrah
A nice kick reception sequence
I've only got a few done from this match (really just the tries), but I'll add more later ... There were some terrific tackles in this match that I'd love to share, and of course the whole swinging a tackled player into the ref thing ...
Try #1 v Pacific U23. Pacific launches a powerful forward attack out of their own end, looking to clear. The clearing kick is blocked, MARFU gains possession, and the ball is transfered through Alison Wormans hands (flanker, PSU) to Megan Newton (fullback, JMU) who stiffarms two defenders to score the try.
Try #2 v Pacific U23. Julia Swavola (flanker, JMU) poaches in her own end, pitches to Kara Bodison (lock, PSU) who pins the first defender and put's Steph (wing, Westchester) away for a 90 meter try.
Try #3 v Pacific U23. Annie Ziegler (Scrumhalf, PSU) moves the ball to Megan Newton (flyhalf, JMU), who moves the ball to Natalie Monroig (Fullback, Shippensburg) who slices through the defense to score with Danielle Monica (Wing, Temple) in support.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
So this weekend I was privileged to be with the MARFU U23 team as they won their second straight National All Star Championship title. I'll write a bit more about that later, as well as post some videos, but my immediate thoughts are around the issue of rest and recovery while in competition.
The heat in Pittsburgh was oppressive. It was hot, it was humid, and we trained and played in the hottest parts of the day. After a less than optimal performance on Friday (we played well in our system and made smart decisions about space, but our defense left quite a bit to be desired), the coaching staff and I made a consious desision to NOT practice on Saturday.
Thing is, if we had practiced, we certainly would have been able to tighten some things up - especially our defensive alignment. Without a doubt, playing the Midwest, improvement in all phases of our defense was critical. But it was sooo, sooo hot, and we'd been pushing everyone pretty hard.
So we made a choice. We did a pool recovery session, and watched a bit of video, then gave the girls the afternoon off. The game plan and patterns we put in place required mental acuity and group decision making, so we wanted everyone to be fresh and rested, body and mind, when we kicked off. One or even two practices Saturday wasn't going to get us in that state. When players are physically and mentally tired, the often make poor decisions and are vulnerable to injury (the same could be said for coaches who don't take time to decompress!). When players are fresh and sharp, I believe they play better rugby, communicate better with each other, and they can problem solve on the fly.
On Sunday our turnovers were reduced, our ball presentation was much improved, our speed across the tunnel better, our clearance of defenders from the rucks was quicker, but mostly our defensive pressure and decision making was radically different from Friday. Granted, we went out early Sunday and walked through roles on defense, but we didn't really run anything at pace.
This is the second year we opted not to train on Saturday, and thus far I've learned that if you take care of the athletes and give them rest and recovery, they take care of the ball and make good decisions on the pitch.
Any thoughts on rest and recovery? I know a lot of the teams in Pittsburgh trained on Saturday, and at least a couple of the programs trained twice. What's been your experience with training/not training in these sorts of events, or training the day before "the big game"? I know the NRU senior side trained on saturday, and they came away with an impressive victory so arguments can be made for either strategy.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
The implentation of the ELVs will be here before we know it - August 1 to be specific. Since they effect EVERYONE - 7s, 15s, u19, etc - I thought it would be interesting to discuss them in detail, in sequence, and talk about how they may impact us at the grass roots level, and see if we can have some Q&A, now, before all the changes happened. An excerpt from the IRB ELV Guide is first, with my commentary below. Feel free to join the discussion!
[ ------ Begin IRB Excerpt ----- ]
Experimental Law Variation 1 Law 6 - Match Officials
Assistant referees are able to assist the referee in any way that the referee requires.
What this means for the Game
When appointed by a match organizer, e.g. a Rugby Union, SANZAR, ERC, etc., qualified touch judges will be known as assistant referees and can, at the discretion of the referee, be assigned additional responsibilities.
This Experimental Law Variation is designed to allow assistant referees to provide additional information to the referee to assist in decision making.
Law text: Law 6 MATCH OFFICIALS
Every match is under the control of match officials who consist of the referee and two touch judges or assistant referees. Additional persons, as authorized by the match organizers, may include the referee, reserve touch judge and/or assistant referee, an official to assist the referee in making decisions by using technological devices, the time keeper, the match doctor, the team doctors, the non-playing members of the teams and the ball persons.
A touch judge may be appointed by a match organizer or a team involved in a match and is responsible for signaling, touch, touch-in-goal and the success or otherwise of kicks at goal. An assistant referee may be appointed by a match organizer and is kesponsible for signaling, touch, touch-in-goal, the success or otherwise of kicks at goal and indicating foul play. An assistant referee will also provide assistance to the referee in the performance of any of the referee’s duties as directed by the referee.
[ ------ End IRB Excerpt ----- ]
Opinions, projections, and speculation
So basically what this law is saying is, if the Touch Judge is "qualified", he or she may be designated as an "Assistant Referee". Well, this kind of happens, now, certainly at Nationals, at Test matches, and and some LAU/TU championship games, and at National All Star Championship venues. It sort of sounds like this is simply formalizing the role of "qualified" touch judges as bone fide assistant referees.
What does "qualified" mean? Does it mean that the individual has completed a formal Touch Judge certification course, or do you need to complete a Referee certification course?
And who, for our purposes on the ground, in our routine matches, is the Match organizer? Ref society? LAUs? Agreement between match secretaries? In most of the matches I'm involved with, there's a ref, and each team contributes a touch judge. Often times that person is a replacement player, an injured player, a friend of the team, alumni, or a coach. Sometimes (seldom) that individual is a certified ref, but they are almost NEVER a neutral party with no interest in the outcome.
The language here - "A touch judge may be appointed by a match organizer or a team involved in a match and is responsible for signaling, touch, touch-in-goal and the success or otherwise of kicks at goal" indicated to me that we are formalizing the varying role of "touch judge" vs "assistant ref". A "touch judge" gets to weigh in on the stuff they've been weighing in on forever (touch & kicks), and an "assistant referee" gets to weigh in on the stuff the touch judge does, PLUS specifically FOUL PLAY, plus specifically anything else the Referee tells them to weigh in on.
I'm personally just fine with this, it seems like it's mostly about role delineation, though I don't expect we're going to see assistant referees outside of championship matches for a while, we just don't have the resources. As the rule reads, "match organizers" assign assistant referees, "match organizers or teams" assign touch judges. Works for me.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
This past weekend our MARFU U23 pool players met up with the MARFU senior players and the NRU seniors player in Phoenixville, PA, as the last preparation for the 2008 NASCs.
Circumstances have arisen that make this a great opportunity for our territory - for one thing, Pittsburgh is hosting this year, meaning, for the first time in my whole rugby career, I don't have to get on a plane to go to NASCs.
Since our territory is hosting (of course some Pittsburg teams identify with the Midwest, others with MARFU), we got some bonus opportunities.
MARFU Seniors are fielding not one, but two sides this year, in order to fill the vacant 8th seed. In years way past the USA U23s filled that slot - in recent years past it was the Canada U23s, and last year the Minnesota selects. MARFU II (as we refer to this group of players) have been preparing along with MARFU I, so I think it will be a great experience.
On the U23 side, the 8th seed has previously been filled by the USA U19s (now U20s). But, the U20s are touring South Africa this summer, and won't be available for NASCs.
To fill this spot, USA Rugby asked us to help coordinate a territorial development team. Teams can roster up to 28 players at NASCs, but typically not all those players get a chance to compete, and coaches often identify a smaller primary team and several alternates. This year, all those players will get a chance to play together in Tier II and practice together as part of this territorial development team. I'm excited to see SO MANY athlete's get a chance to play this year.
So anyway - last weekend we all circled up in Phoenixville PA. All the programs came out early to do some prep training. For MARFU U23 (and NRU Seniors), this was the final step in the selection process. We went over set pieces and team pattern play during the morning, and after a brief lunch break/rain delay, the matches began.
We didn't get to see much of the MARFU/NRU game, but i know the NRU came out on top despite some strong individual performances and solid scrummaging by MARFU.
The remaining teams played a 40 minute round robin format, with MARFU U23 vs MARFU II, MARFU II vs NRU, and MARFU U23 vs NRU. The MARFU U23 v MARFU II game was very, very competitive (5-5), and both team's were able to identify areas for improvement going into NASCs. I didn't get to see the MARFU II/NRU game (7-5), as we were prepping our second group of players. For the last 40 minute period MARFU U23 played NRU, as both coaches were looking to flesh out their final selections.
MARFU U23 got our asses kicked (7ish tries?), by the NRU, but I must say it was an honor and a privilege to play against some of the more experienced NRU players - our girls definitely have a view of what higher level rugby is about, as well as a sense of how seriously investing time in agility, weight training, and skill development can build you into a world class/world cup level player. Though we were outmatched through experience & age, there were definitely some strong performances by the MARFU U23 players, and we know what we need to work on going into Pittsburgh this year.
If you're interested in the final selections for MARFU U23, visit the team blog at http://marfu-u23s.blogspot.com .
Congrats to everyone and thanks to both MARFU Seniors and NRU for the fantastic competition.
Monday, May 26, 2008
I thought for a while about whether I should blog about this, since it's completely non-rugby. But it's my space to do with what I want, and today I want to write about what happened to me and my partner on Saturday. This memorial day weekend did not turn out the way I expected.
We decided to take the two younger dogs to the local dog park on Saturday, and then go for a short hike. The Mondauk dog park in Ft Washington is a really terrific place for pet owners. They have a big dog area, a little dog area, and a couple of different trails. We spent some time in the big dog park, walked down one of the little trails, and then decided it would be fun to explore the creek.
It reminded me a lot of living in Colorado, and hiking up a shallow stream bed looking for a hot fishing spot. Really really good times. I was super happy :)
So we're about calf deep in water, looking at the baby fish and laughing at Ursula (the giant puppy), as she experienced wading for the first time. A couple of times we thought about turning around, but each time decided, "naa, maybe there will be a really cool little picnic spot around the bend".
Except there wasn't. There was a dead body. At first, for just a second, I actually thought it might be a mannequin. But in my heart I knew it wasn't. The body was small. It was male. He was face down in the water, in jeans & a short sleeved shirt. He didn't have any shoes on. It looked like a kid.
So we called 911 and immediately got out of the water. We really weren't deep in the woods at all - it was one of those suburban hiking trails, where it seems remote, but really your skimming backyards along the way.
By the time we got out of the woods, the police had arrived. We led them back to the body. The first officer mentioned that there hadn't been any recent reports of missing kids, and that the body may have been in the water for a while. The second officer took our names and contact info, and then we left and went home. The very first thing we did was take showers. There is something about being in the water with a dead body that makes you feel so much worse than just dirty. It makes you feel like you have death on you. As if death were somehow contagious and we could wash it off.
It was really odd - i wasn't upset, or shocked, or anything like that. But my adrenaline was very high. I felt like I desperately needed to tell someone what had happened. So I told a few people, and realized maybe I was a little more upset that I thought.
We decided we needed to have some sangria and just chill. My partner recently lost a family member (as in like 3 days ago) so it was a little more death than either of us needed. We spent the rest of the day on the deck - with a fire burning and wine in hand.
Saturday night we put on the news, and sure enough, there was the story. That's when I finally freaked out a little. I mean, this was a kid - it's amazing how your brain starts inventing possible back stories. Who was he, what happened, what about his family, was it an accident, was it foul play, what? When I closed my eyes that night it was clear that the image of this body, face down in the creek, with jeans, a short sleeved shirt, and no socks, would be burned in my memory forever.
So now it's Monday and it's still on my mind. It's still in the news, and what's interesting is that the person face down in the stream with jeans, a short sleeved shirt, and no shoes was in fact an adult male. They identified him via a cell phone, and are waiting to release his name pending notification of his family. Hopefully that will happen soon - regardless of what the circumstances are surrounding his death, I imagine his family wants and needs this closure.
Today's Memorial day and it strikes me that for someone will remember Memorial day as the time the found out the fate of a missing family member.
So that's it. The fire, alcohol, and showers haven't done a thing to soften the image of the dead stranger, face down in the creek, in jeans and a short sleeved shirt, with with no socks. It's going to take more than a weekend for sure.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Just received this via the IRB for broad circulation.
Just received this from the IRB for broad circulation, consume and enjoy.
Attached please find the details of the ELVs, slated to go into effect as a "Global Trial" in August of 2008. This global trial applies to 7s and U19s as well as 15s.
Note: This initial set of ELVs to be trialed starting in August DOES NOT include upcoming changes to what happens in rucks. It does address mauls, lineouts (all sorts of modifications), scrums (specific to off sides), and kicking (specific to the 22) in detail.
The document can be downloaded in it's entirety here: http://www.irb.com/mm/Document/NewsMedia/0/IRBELVGuideENFINAL_5097.pdf
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
'Tis the season for select sides!
All the MARFU U23 stuff is being hosted on a seperate blog site - please visit!
Open Tryouts May 18th 2008 - Directions and Details
MARFU U23 Developmental team at Ruggerfest
Thursday, May 08, 2008
So K-2 (pictured in black and white on the sidebar) is a Siberian Husky, closing in on 15 years of age. He is perky, active, talkative, agile and puppy like in many ways. He's also got a variety of tumors. There's a big one in (not on) his butt, several little ones all over his torso, a small one that looks like a miniature brain on his head, a fatty one on one of his front legs, and this one....
On Tuesday morning, this lovely tumor was red, inflamed, hot, and generally gross in every way.
So today, my 14 y/o going on 15 y/o dog is getting it removed. The last time he went under anesthesia, he basically talked for 2 straight days. Apparently this is common with northern breeds. Seriously, yelp, yelp, yelp, yelp, yelp for about 48 hours. NON STOP. But of course, I'd rather have him chattering for 2 days than not have him.
So Dr. Leibovitz (vet extraordinaire), please have an awesome day today.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
I had a lengthy discussion this weekend with a referee about the notion of "shoulders below hips". After reading the comments on the Stanford v PSU women's collegiate championship final, it seems this topic requires further discussion. (how does it feel to be the subject of our discussions Alison?)
At the forefront of the shoulders-below-hips issue is the technique known as "sealing".
Sealing occurs when, as the offensive players who arrives first to the breakdown, you bind tightly to the player on the ground. When done correctly, the player pulls the head and neck towards the shoulders, tensing everything in the front and back of the neck, and pulls the player on the ground towards the upper body, essentially creating a seamless "seal". This technique of "securing" the head and neck is known as "turtling". Players contesting the breakdown are free to counter-ruck and drive the sealed player off the ball, though a nice tight bind by the sealing player, and traditional "drive over" support by the supporting offensive players make it more challenging to contest for the ball. when done correctly, a seal does not kill the ball, in fact it makes it more playable for the team that arrived first to the breakdown. It completely eliminates some of the wild kicking that can occur at the breakdown, and it significantly cuts the number of players required to maintain possession at the breakdown.
At the highest level - Sealing is a no brainer. Do it, and do it well, or you won't get selected. From a coaching perspective, coaching the seal safely should be considered as critical as coaching safe scrummaging or safe tackling.
What's the point of contention for referees? Well, there are few. If the defense does not in fact contest the breakdown, and the sealing player came in with power (as they should, since the may very well transition from seal to clear-out mode as they arrive), the arriving players momentum may create a "diving over" scenario. At the higher levels, arriving players are not penalized for diving over, since that scenario does not present itself unless the breakdown is uncontested - in which case there since there no defense, a player who finds themselves on the other side of the downed ball carrier is neither impeding play, nor in a dangerous position (if theres no one around you to injure you, are you going to be injured?).
Many referees contend that, at the seal, since the shoulders are often below the hips, the act itself is inherently dangerous. And there is guidance to back this up.
So I suppose this is where discretion of an individual referee comes in. Do we apply the same standard of safely to a new, younger, or less physically mature player that we do with a fit, well trained, experienced player?
My discussion this weekend ended at an impasse - the specific take on sealing was that, if your butt was down and your head up, it was safe, since the shoulders were above the hips.
I disagree - in this scenario, players arriving from the defensive side of the breakdown can very easily drive a knee (unintentionally, simply in the act of rucking) into the sealing players face and chin, and players from the offensive side can easily drive the sealing player over the top of the downed player, simply by applying any pressure to the sealing player from behind.
In the "tight and turtled" scenario, the sealing player is in a modified 4 point stance, with their head securely nestled on the offensive side of the downed player, with their head and neck muscles in a solid and balanced position. Is their head below their shoulders? YES. But, if done correctly, you are literally pulling the downed player toward you, and, were you as a player, to let go, you'd remain on your feet.
Interestingly enough, this same weekend we ran into some challenges with our scrummaging style. Since the head is in a neutral position (imagine how your head sits on top of your body now, then simply bend at the waist without changing head position, and you'll see what that's like), the clear cut "head above hips" is hard to see. In fact, it looks like the head is exactly even with the hips (which, is what this particular style calls for). Since guidance is "head above hips, always and forever", this style of scrummaging has drawn some angst from many in the referee circuits. Which, lets face it, is a problem - since this style of scrummaging is being taught throughout the country, to men and women of all ages, as the way WE (USA) are going to scrum.
What to do? I'd love to hear from a high level (B1 etc) ref on the matter ... At this point, on game day - I have no idea what to expect. With the ELV's looming on the horizon, it seems we'd better sort this all out.
Friday, May 02, 2008
This weekend 3 MARFU Collegiate women's programs vie for the #1 spot in the country at USA Rugby's Collegiate Championships.
AND YOU CAN WATCH IT ALL LIVE (times are pacific - add 3 hours if you are on the east coast) ...
USA Rugby has partnered with the National Guard & ESPN to stream all the games live and do television broadcasts.
From usarugby.org ..
Friday, May 2
11:00 pm: Division I Women's Semi Final (Penn State vs. Brown) 1:00 pm: Division I Women's Semi Final (Stanford v Navy) 3:00 pm: Division I Men's Semi Final (Cal v Saint Mary's) 5:00 pm: Division I Men's Semi Final (BYU v CU - Boulder)
Saturday, May 3
11:00 pm: Division II Women's Championship - UM-Duluth vs.
1:00 pm: Division II Men's Championship - Radford vs. Utah Valley State 3:00 pm: Division I Women's Championship 5:00 pm: Division I Men's Championship
And don't forget, the 2008 USA Rugby's National Guard College Club Championships is also part of ESPNU's expanded coverage of USA Rugby. A tape delayed telecast of the USA Rugby National Guard Men's and Women's Division I College Championships will be aired on May 21 and 22, at 10 p.m. EST.
To access the live stream ...
Sunday, April 20, 2008
From the Philly WNT skills camp ....
Who's front and center, wearing a USA Rugby jersey? Yup, it's Chelsea Clinton. She was visiting the Lansdowne YMCA, across the street from where the WNT was training, talking about her mom and (of course) universal healthcare.
The players signed a USA Rugby jersey presented it to her. She donned said rugby jersey and took some photos with the team.
Primary season in Philly continues ...
Sunday, April 13, 2008
So yesterday, while the pitch set up for the day's activities, we all got struck by lightning.
I'm totally serious.
How can a bunch of people get struck by lightning? We'll it's called a ground current, or a side flash - not sure what the heck we experienced, maybe one, maybe both Read about it here ...
Here's how it goes: Lightning strikes an open field, or something in an open space (in this case a light pole), and if the conditions are right, the electrical current zaps anyone in the area. In this case, a wet field = the right conditions. I think we're all very glad that the individual closest to to light pole was wearing giant rubber galoshes, and spared what could have been a life-stealing jolt.
So anyway, we're futzing about the field, it's a light drizzle with a few dark clouds, but certainly nothing scary. Then WHAM! A flash, a bang, and then a TAZER to the head!
Most everyone got knocked to the ground and felt the shock through the tops of their head, though a couple of people who were bending over at the time felt it through their posteriors. The distance impacted was pretty big - the guys playing softball one field over also got knocked down and were grabbing their heads.
After we retreated (a little shook up) to the cars to wait out the ensuing thunderstorm, I took a stroll to inspect "ground zero" of the strike (within 20 minutes of the event the sky was blue and the sun was out). This pole was SHREDDED - shards of splintered wood were sticking out of the ground like spears."
So there it is. I will never ever underestimate lightning and its power. I promise to adhere to any and all lightning related safety policies.
And I'm really hoping everyone gets super powers, myself included.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
So, here's the deal.
I've been an independent my whole voting life. There are philosophical things that I like about the Republicans, but when it comes to my day to day existence, I mostly support the Democrats. Recently though, I've grown weary of the shenanigans.
Like a zillion other Pennsylvanians, I'm excited about having a chance to vote in the Democratic primary. I got a voter registration form, so I could change my party affiliation from Independent to Democrat. It sat for a day or two, and then one day on the way to work, I was stopped by some people doing voter registrations in Suburban Station, and I said "heck, I better do this now before I procrastinate and I'm S.O.L". So I did. Yay!
Not yay. B@&**#*T. Less than 48 hours after handing this nice volunteer my voter registration form, I got a phone call from one of the two campaigns. The caller left me a voicemail and said "We heard that you were interested in supporting XXX. We also hear that you might be interested in volunteering! I'm your neighbor, I live in your area... call me!"
There is only ONE PLACE that the caller could have gotten my number ... my CELL phone number ... from my Voter Registration Form. Without a doubt, my data was harvested and forwarded on to a rep in my county... a "neighbor."
I have been receiving calls from this campaign every 2-3 days. Always the same thing. I've told them very clearly, "I'm not supporting XXX, I'm supporting DDD. Thank you for your enthusiasm, but please don't call me anymore". It hasn't stopped. It's as if my phone number, name, age, etc, from my voter registration form, has been loaded into a sales-lead of database. It's rude. Its NOT OK.
Most people who know me are aware of the candidate I support - however I have little doubt that both campaigns are doing this. Which is crap. What happen to registering to vote because it was both your civic duty, AND your privilege as an American?
My voter registration form is a government document. Its private. It's got all my personal info on it. ITS PRIVATE!!!! You don't have the right to harvest my information! YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO TREAT ME LIKE A SALES LEAD.
So, to "my neighbor" who keeps calling me .... PLEASE. STOP. NOW. PERIOD.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I received this in my mailbox today from reader from the Men's Club community. It highlights how routine and casual decisions by us as coaches can have a heartbreaking impact on players. When we dangle that carrot and say "you'll get a chance to compete", we have to do just that.
body of email:
I play for a D3 club team and I'm in the pack. I have always wanted to become one of those TDMs (tactical decisionmakers) for the team and put a lot of thought and practice into improving how I see the game. This year our team has a need for a scrumhalf, and I was told to train up my fitness to play the position. I knew that two other guys would be competing for it as well; we all have different pluses and minuses.
Last week, after our second week of spring practice, I was told that they wouldn't be using me at scrumhalf, but to keep my skills up because it might "be an option" down the line. I will admit that I was deflated by this, and as an adult club rugby player, it's been hard to motivate myself to keep up the fitness or enthusiasm for practice since then.
The problem I have with the process is that none of our practices even involved any scrumhalf play (they were all just "let's get back in the swing of things" basic skills refreshers), and there was no opportunity to trial for the 9 shirt. While I'm sure I would be disappointed if I was beat out for a position, it is far more disheartening to lose a position without ever having a chance to
compete for it. I believe my skills are better than the other guys, and given a scrimmage, that I could run the scrumhalf position better. If I compete and am proven to be wrong, I am willing to accept that. It is hard to accept being shown a carrot and then having it removed so offhandedly.
I'd love to hear your (and your colleague's) thoughts on what a player should do in this situation. I also wanted to put out there the idea that, in my opinion, coaches should be conscious of players individual ambitions, and not make decisions like this with the appearance of casual judgment.
Its interesting that this email comes the day we're "declaring" our individual seasonal goals at today's training. How do others in the coaching community balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the team?
Anyone have any advice for this guy?
Monday, March 24, 2008
Every Coach Development workshop I go to focuses on the criticality of developing decision makers - players who can look at what's in front of them, collate and assess all sorts of relevant information, select a course of action, and implement that course of action.
How well are we doing it?
One of the things that's becoming clearer to me, as I examine my own coaching sessions, as I watch other's sessions, and as I talk with players, is that we need to distinguish between planning and deciding.
Very few coaches, when asked, will tell you that they want to play a heavily scripted game. There are a few of us who still hold fast to the 900,000 page play book, but those of us who do stand fiercely by the theory that a "play" is a starting point, it's the follow up actions that constitute the decision.
I'm thinking about that ....
Now I'm not saying we should throw away the play book - every team ought to document their communication system, their game plan, their philosophy of the game.
So today's coaching question is: Are your practices encouraging decision making and creativity, or do your practices encourage planning; an if-then method of choosing from a list of scripted, acceptable choices?
According to all the coaching theory, the process of true decision making takes four steps:
- Recognition: you've got to not only see whats in front of you, but recognize it in a way that is useful. For example, maybe I recognize that my opposite is bearing down hard on me in defense. If I don't, however, recognize that she is leaving her partner behind, and therefore creating a gap in the defense, then I'm not truly recognizing the situation, I'm only seeing it.
- Assessment: once you've recognized the problem in front of you, you've got to take in all sorts of relevant information, and mentally assess various solutions.
In the scenario above, that might mean that i need to know if I have vertical support, and if a short pass to a penetrating runner is a possible option; I need to know if I have wide support - maybe moving the ball out early and far is an option; I need to know if the player outside me is running an angle towards me, if she is, perhaps attacking the gap in the defense is an option; I need to know what the opposing teams back triangle is up to - perhaps a kick is a way to mitigate the pressure. Once I've assessed these various options I need to make a ...
- Decision: The player needs to pick one of the options.
Good decision makers make decisions that put a player across the gain line or get the team out of trouble. Great decision makers make decisions that put a player in the try zone, and turn poor situations to their team's advantage.
- Execution: All the brilliance in the world is for naught if we can't actually run, pass, or kick the ball where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. When the golden opportunity comes around, we need to deliver.
So, in order to teach decision making, we need to first teach players how to recognize and assess various situations. This is where the difference between teaching "planning" and teaching "decision making" comes in.
Let's start with the standard "around the cones 2 v 1". Your instructions as a coach are something like this:
"If the defense sticks to you, pass. If the defense slides, keep the ball." Pretty normal stuff, right?
Clearly, the player needs to recognize what the defense is doing and act accordingly. But is he/she making a decision? Or simply acting out a pre-planned course of action? How about the support player? In this scenario, we're killing the "assessment" part of the four step cycle.
Let's tweak the standard "around the cones 2 v 1". This time, a third player tosses the ball into the grid, for either attacking player to catch, pick up off the ground, whatever. The defender can enter the grid the moment either attacking player touches the ball. Suddenly everything is different - and maybe a little chaotic. Suddenly, all three players have to pay attention to whats going on .... all three players need to recognize, assess, decide, and execute.
Many coaches are strong proponents of the decision tree. It goes something like this:
If x, then a or b
If a, then 2
If b, then 3
etc, etc, etc.
- If the defense commits to you, and you have time to pass the ball out, pass the ball out.
- If the defense commits to you and you have no time to pass out, look to pass through contact .
- If you cannot pass through contact, keep your feet moving till help arrives.
- If you cannot keep your feet, look to place the ball towards your team in the tackle.
These trees can get pretty detailed, and can be expanded to encompass small units, large units, and full teams. Sometimes the options are mapped to field locations and grids. For many coaches and many programs, this approach work just fine.
I see a use for these types of trees, but I think they restrict us, even when there are a myriad of options specified. My primary issue: they only address what is in the COACH's head ... creativity, on the field, comes out of the player's heads - and from the intereactions between players. Like so many scientific discoveries, it happens when two or more events collide in space and time to present an opportunity not previously imagined, and it required a willingness on the part of all players involved to venture into this unknown territory, and "try something different". A dash of "what the #$@*" mixed with a little serendipity.
No matter how detailed our script is, no matter how many options and scenarios we can imagine, we can never BE in the heads of the players on the field, we can never see what they see, and we can never fully understand why they chose what they did. No one every makes a bad decision on purpose; rather, for whatever reason, during the recognition and assessment phase of the process, they saw or assessed (or didn't) something different than what we saw and assessed on the sidelines.
A question to ponder:
Team A: You spend the bulk of practice learning to recognize the field situations, learning to assess options, and learning to make decisions, but your team struggles with execution. Your team is smart as hell, but the mantra on game day always seems to be "right idea, just unfortunate" The last pass, the last tackle, the last kick always fall short.
Team B: You spend the bulk of practice working on execution: pass, kick, catch, tackle, run - that sort of things. You look sharp, but on game day you never really find the gaps, you never really exploit the defense's mistakes. You always look good, but on game day your mantra always seems to be "we're so much better than them, why are we losing?".
So now we take a few sessions with Team A, and work on their execution skills.
We take a few sessions with Team B, and work on their decision making skills.
Which team is going to show the biggest measurable difference? What takes the longest to develop?
I pick A.
It's requires a leap of faith to be sure, and requires a belief that even the most ordinary of players can have moments of extraordinary creativity and vision. I don't know about the rest of you, but on game day, I like surprises.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
The big buzzwords in rugby circles these days are "High Performance". We have High Performance Plans, High Performance Coaches, High Performance Centers.
So I googled it.
One of the most surprizing results was the Discovery Education: High Performance - Sports. It talks not about VO2 max measuring, not about hip-dominance and hamstring chains, not about micro-cycles or high intensity intervals.
The particular lesson plan is designed for 6-8th graders. It might also be relevant to 20-40 yr old men and women.
In a nutshell, the kids have to work in groups to invent a new "game" (sport). They have a list of everyday objects (some sports objects, some not), and they have time. They need to define and shape this sport, and then they need to teach it to the other kinds. It's all broken down into a detailed lesson plan, complete with pre, in, and post session tasks for the kids. One of the most interesting set of tasks is this particular post-session task:
Students will then need to discuss and write about how their game affects a person mentally, physically and socially (mind, body and spirit). This can be done in their groups with one report submitted per group. Students should break up responsibilities of the report into sections with each member of the group writing one section (this will all depend on the number of students per group). Report responsibilities can be broken up as follows:
|1.||How does the pressure of a sport affect you mentally?|
|2.||How does the discipline of a sport affect the way you approach other things in life?|
|3.||What is it about any sport that keeps you interested?|
|4.||Why is it important to prepare yourself mentally for an event?|
|5.||Do you ever feel so drained of energy that it takes away the fun of the sport?|
|6.||Do you ever feel the need to keep going in a sport even though you are hurt or not 100%?|
|7.||What are the pressures like to loose or gain weight while playing a sport?|
|8.||How can physically enhancing drugs help or hurt you?|
|9.||What does it mean to be a team player?|
|10.||What are the feelings experienced when the whole team contributes to the win?|
|11.||What do you learn from loosing?|
|12.||How do you learn to depend on your teammates?|
Pretty cool stuff ...
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Dear rugby community (especially those of you located in the Philly metro area),
Be on the lookout for a set of white/maroon/blue numbered rugby jerseys with the Philly Women's logo. A team member's car was broken into last night, and a full set of jersey's stolen.
Here's two photos so you know exactly what they look like:
If spot one ( or 22 of them) on the street, please email firstname.lastname@example.org , or text 215.421.1823, and we'll take it from there ...
Thank you all!
Recieved this via the EPRU today - the "code of conduct" pieces especially interesting, as this is the first time I've seen match officials, coaches, players, and supporters all address in one documents.
There are some very interesting line items in this doc ... the tread into areas I haven't before seen a union policy paper tread. Since this is a blog about COACHING, I'll pull out the coach-specific stuff here.
Coaches of players should:
A. Recognize the importance of fun and enjoyment when coaching players.
B. Understand that most learning is achieved through doing.
C. Appreciate the needs of the players before the needs of the sport. Specifically
coaches MUST be aware of any size mismatches and move players to
D. Be a positive role model, and think what this implies.
E. Keep winning and losing in perspective, and encourage players to behave with
dignity in all circumstances.
F. Respect all referees and the decisions they make, even if they appear to make a
mistake (remember it could be you refereeing next week), and ensure that the
players recognize that they must do the same. Refrain from shouting out
decisions from the touchline. It simply confuses players and can cause them to
lose potential advantages being played
G. Provide positive verbal feedback in a constructive and encouraging manner to all
players, both during coaching sessions and matches.
H. Provide rugby training matched to the players’ ages and abilities, as well as their
physical and behavioral development.
I. Provide a safe environment, with adequate first aid readily on hand.
J. Avoid the overplaying of the best players by using a squad system which gives
everybody a satisfactory amount of playing time.
K. Never allow a player to train or play when injured.
L. Provide good supervision of players, both on and off the field.
M. Recognize that players should never be exposed to extremes of heat, cold or
unacceptable risk of injury.
N. Develop an awareness of nutrition as part of an overall education in lifestyle
O. Recognize that it is illegal for players under 21 to drink alcohol and those under
18 to smoke. Coaches should actively discourage both.
P. Keep their knowledge and coaching strategies up to date and in line with USA
Q. Be aware of, and abide by, the USA Rugby recommended procedures for taking
young people on residential tours at home and abroad.
R. Coach to the laws and keep up-to-date on law changes.
The full copy for your review below - links to a host of safety resources .
To the Rugby Community:
The EPRU is proud to announce the issuance of two new standards which are intended to improve the enjoyment and safety of rugby by all.
Feel free to use these standards and as well as passing them along to your rugby contacts that would benefit from them.
Comments and suggestions for the improvement of this standards are both welcome and encouraged. Please send them to me at email@example.com.
With you on-and-off the pitch.
EPRU Sets Standards of Conduct for Participants and Supporters
A high degree of sportsmanship and fairness is expected from players, coaches, match officials and supporters.
In its continuing efforts to improve the rugby experience for all involved - both on and off the field of play, the EPRU has issued a series of Codes of Conduct that it expects compliance with from match officials, players, coaches and supporters. This document can be found at: http://www.epru.org/forms/pdfs
All age-grade (ages 6 to 19) coaches and collegiate coaches are required to sign and abide by the EPRU “Rugby Coaches Code of Conduct” which is found at www.epru.org/forms/pdfs
All collegiate players and coaches must comply with the USA Rugby's Collegiate Code of Conduct which states:
'Collegiate rugby players represent their universities and are ambassadors of United States collegiate rugby. As such, each collegiate rugby player and coach is expected to be a lady or a gentlemen on and off the field. Collegiate rugby players should not tolerate obnoxious, impolite or antisocial behavior of any sort which could adversely affect the image of collegiate rugby as a serious and disciplined athletic endeavor. Any breach of this Code of Conduct at this event, either at the event site, area hotels, public facilities, etc., as witnessed and reported by any individual will be forwarded to the appropriate disciplinary committee for action.'
Compliance with these conduct codes requires cooperation from everyone involved in the game and recognition of the fact that we are all in this together for the same reason.
EPRU Improves Its Standard for Rugby Safety
The EPRU continues to lead the way in making rugby a safer experience for everyone.
Since 1995, the EPRU has been pro-active in making rugby a safer sport with its publication of "Safety Precaution Recommendations". In 1998, a more comprehensive safety publication "Making Rugby Safer" was issued. This document was well-received by the rugby community nationwide and is used by many Unions as "their" safety document. In continuing its pro-active approach to rugby safety, the EPRU has issued its Safer Rugby Program and feels its 7-step approach to rugby safety will help to make the rugby experience even better for all involved. Please start using it today.
In recent years, safety has received more focus by both National and International Rugby governing bodies as seen by the wealth of information found at USA Rugby's website (www.usarugby.org ) as well as the IRB (www.irb.com). USA Rugby has partnered with the National Center for Sports Safety ( www.sportssafety.org) to provide its sports safety course "PREPARE" which is now part of the Coaching Certification Program. PREPARE can also be taken directly online at the NCSS website. The IRB has produced its "Rugby Ready Program" ( www.irbrugbyready.com) and can be taken online. Both of which are part of the EPRU's "Safer Rugby Program".
The EPRU Safety and Risk Management section is at: http://www.epru.org/safety
Monday, March 10, 2008
My last post on recruiting practices got its fair share of dialog, a lot of it around 5 year college students.
Just to make it clear - i absolutely believe that players can and should make all decisions regarding their lives and futures; my primary concern is that we have zero ...ZERO.... ethical guidelines for recruiting. My concern is that we, as coaches, control the bulk of the information that enables players to make sound, rational, informed decisions .... and some times we don't do the right thing with either the information, OR the responsibility we have.
At the club level I personally feel there is a lot bigger gray area, and a lot more is kosher (if only with a big K instead of an OU) - simply because the colleges and universities, athletic departments and rec sports offices - are not involved. There are still ethical issues, but without the oversight of a major institution, there is less accountability, so really less to base any standards on.
To the reader who commented that, if a players wants to stay in school 5 years just so they can play more college rugby, or doesn't want to finish college at all (and is around just for rugby), that's totally cool (cuz it's his or her money), I have a question. Would you be willing to take that stand with the university sports or recreation officials? How do you think the university would respond to the player who says "Well, I'm paying the bill, and I've decided my priority is rugby. I'll graduate when I graduate, if I graduate. School is less important than rugby". How do you think the university would respond to the coach who echo's those sentiments? Keep in mind, while the player may in fact be footing the bill, most universities get some sort of public subsidy, and most university clubs are at least, in part, funded by student fees. So while it's mostly YOUR money, some of it is my money.
One reader commented that the sketchy event is rare. It's not as rare as we'd like to think. There are IN FACT college coaches telling players, as freshman, they they need to get on the five year plan. There are IN FACT college coaches who pay the "special" player's expenses for them, to entice them to stay around longer. There are IN FACT coaches who promise players that, if they stay with them, or if they move, they will make this or that all star team.
So the debate isn't about the player's choice, it's about the coaches actions. It's about what we, as a community, think is OK. Its about what our employers (and sorry, even if you are a volunteer you are accountable to the school) think is OK.
Just looking through a range of NCAA documents on recruiting, it's clear that they have had to put boundaries in place. Very little of the documentation describes a minimum, it describes boundaries and limits.
NCAA rules describe things like how often a coach can make phone contact with a player, over what period of time, and starting how early. How often a coach can make face-to-face contact. Even, yes, how often a coach can use text messaging, chat, IM, and email. Their guidelines specify WHERE contact can take place, and its in almost all situations it is school grounds, practice fields, sports locations. These rules are incredibly detailed, and specific for sport and division. They discuss exactly what "deals" a coach can make with a prospective player, and how these "deals" must be documented in writing and reviewed.
Now granted, we're not NCAA. But do we really believe as a community, that there's no need to discuss ethics? That to question what's ethical and what's not is the equivalent of complaining?
I don't think so.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Alternate Title: the Head Coach as a Recruiting Agent
I'm hoping to open a lively but potentially charged discussion about recruiting. Every team has to do it, those that do it well develop strategies they improve and build upon year after year. Strong teams with longevity are strong recruiters.
My guess is that we all agree - recruit, recruit, recruit. Recruit HS players into rugby colleges, college players onto rugby clubs, and HS, college, and club players into local, territorial, and national select sides. Where's the controversy in that?
Since for the most part our HS and College programs are not varsity, not formally state based, we have little ethical oversight when it comes to recruiting. At the club level, we have nothing. There are a host of ethical questions that repeatedly come up, and I'm sure I'm barely scratching the surface - so what the heck, let's tackle them.
Select Side coaches recruiting for their home club:
This is probably the one that comes up most, and generates the most emotional response. If you, as a club/college/HS coach, are ALSO a select side/national team coach, is it OK to recruit players you're exposed to through select sides over to your own program?
It gets complex in my opinion ... are you a college coach coaching a u19 select side, who recruits high school players to your college? If so, it seems like an unfair advantage to coaches who are not in your position. But, if it's a market based economy, and you've done the hard work to develop your coaching skills and your program, aren't you entitled to promote it, if only "for the good of the player?"
There are two problems as I see it. First the implied influence. I mean, only the boldest of us would say "play for me and I'll put you on the lau/territorial/national team", but even if we don't say it, it's implied. Second is funding ... if your LAU/Territory/Country is funding your Select Side, and you're recruiting through your select side program, isn't the LAU/Territory/Country in part funding your club's recruiting program?
Another layer of ethical question comes into play if you, as a select side coach at any level, coach a team of the same level. Ie, U18/19 select side coach also coaches High School, Collegiate/U23/U20 Select Side coach also coaches College, Senior select side coach also coaches Club. So now, if you recruit, we have a situation where perhaps you are recruiting directly from your competitor. And, consciously or not, dangling the "if you play for me you will ..." carrot.
While this post is limited to recruiting, it's impossible to ignore the other issue ... its near to impossible NOT to show some favoritism to the players you coach daily. Why?
- They understand your communication style, the type of game you'd like to play, the skills you most emphasize
- You understand them, and have the time with them to work specifically on improving whatever weakness you see. With players not on your team, you have to hope their coach is responsive and capable of doing that by proxy.
- The players you play against are always viewed by you in a "how can we beat them" view port, so you are more likely to focus on their weaknesses, and your own player's strengths.
So here's the last question regarding recruiting and ethics .... is it OK to actively recruit players from the team across town? From the other teams in your league? Rivals? Teams from a lower division in your area? On one hand - if you can offer those players something that you're coaching competitors can't, why not? If it is indeed a market based economy, and the currency is indeed rugby players, and we agree that its a free market, the only conclusion is YES, it's OK.
But does it feel right .... or does it sometimes feel, dare I say ... shady? Do we, as head coaches, ignore the social and ethical burden that our recruiting puts on players, or do we just recruit with blinders on? Do we entice them away from home, encourage them to break off friendships, tell them that we are better able to coach them then another coach? Promise them a position? Promise them playing time? Money & Fame? Are there any boundaries? Or is it all part of healthy competition?
Probably the worst thing I've every seen crossed a pretty clear line from "ethically questionable" to "downright sleazy", when at a collegiate tournament, a bigoted coach for club X purposefully outed member of a club Y to a wide audience of college players, and listed it as a reason not to play for club Y, but rather for club X. There is nothing quite like using hate and bigotry as a recruiting tool.
I can tell you from my personal experience that I have been on both sides. I have indeed, in the context of being a select side coach, said to players, "So, I'd love to have you check out my club team when you graduate ..." I've justified such action by telling myself that I make no promises, no assurances, and dangle no carrots of national team or select side glory. I tell them to check out other clubs, but strongly encourage them to check out mine ...
I've also been pissed beyond words when I've felt like an ethical line has been crossed ... PISSED. But even in my angst, I've struggled to pin down what exactly it is that's irked me. The problem at it's core is, we as a community haven't agreed on where the ethical line is, or if there even is one.
And yet another recruiting technique that I'm a little ashamed to say I've unintentionally used is the "guilt card". Essentially, this is the "after all I've done for you .... " card. Yeah, I played that card once. And I felt like a complete s#&t-head, and I haven't done it again. It wasn't premeditated, it was a gut response, and I was incapable in the moment of self-censoring. As it turns out, things turned out just fine, but it doesn't change the fact that, in that moment in time, I was thinking as much about what was best for me, as what was best for the player.
And on to this idea of "rugby players as currency" thing. A highly capable and successful coach once told me that recruiting in rugby was simply an extension of the market based economy. So should I recruit just one or two 100 dollar bills? 20 5s? or a whole lot of singles? It's an interesting metaphor if nothing else.
Last, is it the head coach's job to recruit? The survey I posted a while back indicates that at least half the coaches out there are the PRIMARY recruiter ... yet most every club has a recruiting committee. Any conflicts? Are we making promises to players we really can't deliver on?
Does anyone have any recruiting stories they'd like to share? Or any thoughts/opinions about what's mentioned here? Ethical dilemma's you've struggled with? Share!
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Has anyone tried this? Feedback please ..
Monday, February 25, 2008
If you are anything like me, "vacation" doesn't mean what it does to non-rugby people. More often than not, "vacation" = using your precious time off to fly somewhere for rugby, never actually see the place you are flying to, work your ass off playing/coaching/reffing/administering, and return home more in need of a real vacation than you were when you left.
Take a vacation. A real one. It will make you feel better :)
I just got back from MY ridiculously fabulous vacation in Honduras - about 1/2 mile east of Sambo Creek, which is about 15km east of La Ceiba, to be exact.
We flew into San Pedro Sula, via Atlantic City/Ft Lauderdale, after frolicking just a bit in the overprices Atlantic City Casinos. Some bummers about AC: you cant' find a craps table for less than 10 bucks, you can't drop coins into slot machines anymore, and a cheese steak costs 10 bucks.
By the time we arrived in Honduras, we seriously needed a break. We stayed at this little B&B called "the Diving Pelican", which was right on the beach. Unfortunately there's some security issues at night, so almost all the beach hotels are gated. No matter - it was still amazing.
The place was run by a couple from Texas who bought their tickets the day after Bush won the election. There is room for only 6 guests - so it was really just like staying at someone's house. The place included a "Champa" which is essentially like an outdoor bar/recroom with beer, juice, wine, and rum rum rum. It was pay as you go and dirt cheap. Seriously, in the states, our bar tab for two people for a week at the beach would have been at least 500 bucks. Instead it was about 40. Here's the Champa (right outside the gate is the ocean) ...
The first day was basically beach, beach beach. Duh! This is Playa Helen - the boats are used by the local Garafina people, who do largely subsistence fishing.
On Day 2, we took off to the jungle canopy for a zip-line tour. We were picked up by a kid who couldn't have been more than 15, on horseback, with horses for us. Now, we Americans LOVE our animals, and it was a little tough seeing the conditions down there. I had to keep reminding myself - pets really are a luxury. The horses that picked us up were clearly working ... they were quite a bit scrawnier than what we're used to, and you could really feel them sweating in the heat.
We got kitted up with our harnesses (just a climbing harness with a wheel thingee-that fits on a cable) and rode on horseback up a trail into Pico Bonito National Park. The "Canopy Tour" involved traversing the jungle canopy via a network of cables. There were 21 cables total - the longest one was over a kilometer! I would have liked to take a little more time and really learn about the local flora and fauna, but it was still pretty awesome, flying through the jungle, hundreds of feet above the ground. Though the whole experience would NEVER pass any sort of OSHA safety inspection, I never felt unsafe, even for a second.
Once we finished the zip line tour, we went back into the edge of the jungle, where there was a natural hot-spring to soak in. AMAZING!
On Day 3 we decided to go into town. La Ceiba is the third largest city in Honduras. It very much has the feel of many poorer southwestern towns in the US, with a constant wave of people buying and selling fruits, grains, clothing, and WWF t-shirts. We bought a bunch of souvenirs, some rum for the champa, and had a FANTASTIC dinner.
Day 4 ... SNORKELING! A young couple staying at the inn told us that the guys who run the snorkeling tour would also just drop us off at an caye (island) and leave us for the day, so thats what we did. It was breathtaking. I've been snorkeling before, but never in anywhere that was so completely saturated with life. Alas, no waterproof camera = no underwater photos, but they are seared in my brain. I don't do the diving thing, in this particular area it wouldn't have mattered so much - the water wasnt more than a few feet deep for what seemed like forever. Literally, there wasn't a place you could look that wasn't teeming with life. At first the barracudas creeped me out a little bit, but after a few moments it was clear that they intended no harm and we just enjoyed staring at each other a bit.
Now I'm by no means a tree-hugger-environmentalist type, but in this day and age I hope we are all getting a bit more sensitive about the world we live in. I couldn't help but wonder, if everyone got a chance to see how peaceful, beautiful, and full of life these pristine pockets of earth are, that we would perhaps take just a little bit better care of the planet. Of course I'm currently working for a client in a 28 story office building, in center city Philadelphia, that gives out free canned soda (we go through at least 4 cases a day on my floor alone), and doesn't recycle. Hmm.
We spent our last day at the Diving Pelican, laying around in hammocks, reading, drinking rum, swimming in the ocean, the strolled into Sambo Creek for a massive "meat platter" with beans & rice, plantains, salad, and of course beer, that cost about 10 bucks for both of us. The sunset was glorious, and then it was time to return to the states. No sooner did we get to Atlantic City, then we were ripped off by a cab driver. That's right, the bill was 23 bucks, I handed him 40, he said "let me get you change", and them promptly drove away. So much for so-called civilization.
Side note: We flew on Spirit Airlines, a discount carrier that specializes in the Carribean and Central America. I was a little worried that our plane would be held together with duct tape and rubber bands, but it was actually brand new, with roomy leather seats, and no BS. Plane fare to San Pedro Sula from Atlantic city was about $300 per person, and we left and arrived on time. I highly recommend flying with them, just go into it knowing that checked bags, even one, cost money, and even soda's cost money on board. If you put that aside, the plane, service, and flight were better than any I've recently had from any of the big name domestic carriers. I just wish they flew out of Philly. Oh well.
The jump back into rugby happened very quickly, as the day after we got home was Philly Women's annual free collegiate clinic. More on that later, for now I'll leave you with this final image....