Thursday, July 22, 2010

Educating the youth.

SO, today at work (I work with kids ages 11-12), I brought my rugby ball and kicking tee because we had a field trip to a national park that had really big open fields to play on. I didn't think that the kids were going to be that interested because of the complexity of the sport, but they actually loved it. I think that what I did with the kids today for over three hours people should try and do for newcomers to the sport, during practices on various teams, and especially children to expose them to the idea of rugby. Today we actually pulled off a flag rugby game, and it worked beautifully! I thought it was going to be such a fail, because I had to think of a way to play it with the kids while minimizing the amount of contact but still making the sport as fun and lively as it is.
I even think this could be better than the touch rugby that we usually do at practices (except we could instill a little more contact that the amount I had to subtract for the kids); I've always hated touch rugby because I think it's so unrealistic and doesn't practice certain skills that you need. Tagging someone in rugby just by tapping them almost throws away half of the offensive opportunities you're given in rugby, and I'd say almost 100% of the time there is contact involved on offense anyway (hence the touch rugby making offense almost useless, way to long, and practically needing breakaways to score). I think that the flags around the waist is much more realistic, and closer to the area that a person aims for to tackle someone anyway. It also leaves room on offense for players to make moves, break through the defense more, and actually go into contact. So many epiphanies!!

Here are some rules for flag rugby I came up with on the fly that worked well:

- The kids wore a belt with two flags that were attached by a velcro. When someone pulled one of their flags, it was considered a tackle.
- Instead of rucking, the person who got tackled would put the ball between their legs, as if they were rucking over the ball. That team on offense had four seconds to get the ball off the ground (I figured that was the most logical amount of time that a scrumhalf usually has to get the ball out of a ruck), and if they didn't after four seconds then the team on defense could attempt to take it.
- With the kids, there weren't really set positions for simplicity purposes; I didn't want to bombard them with a ton of rules at once. So anyone could take the ball out of a ruck, and I didn't really go over rules of obstruction, but the rules of offsides and no forward passes were still well alive and active.
- I couldn't figure out how to do scrums without any contact, but we still did line outs which I was surprised worked! One person would throw the ball out of bounds and over their head, like normal, but the two teams would line up in two lines the same width as a regular line out. Instead of lifting anyone in the air though, the ball would be thrown in right down the middle (not necessarily all the way to the end of the line out) and both teams would try and grab it. They really liked the line outs, and they were always really excited to try throwing in the ball!

They also really loved trying all the different kinds of kicks and passes. And some of the girls got really hot and asked if they could still play rugby but with water balloons, which at first I thought was a ridiculous idea but then realized could actually be beneficial! If you play with water balloons as a rugby ball, you obviously have to take serious care of the ball so that it doesn't explode, and you almost need to catch the ball/balloon with two hands or else it'll blow up or hit the ground and blow up. People should always catch with two hands in rugby anyway, so it would be really cool to play that sort of version where it's legit vital! It sounds like super good practice for hands and passing in general!

So anyways, it kind of drove me insane that the younger generation does not know at lot about rugby at all. Today was the first exposure to the sport that some kids had ever seen, and a lot of them wanted to keep playing and play on a team! I wish that rugby was more popular here, and that kids got a chance to play it more (even just a CHANCE! There are literally almost ZERO opportunities for kids to play rugby...but a ton to play football....which makes no sense). It would improve a person's game SO much. I hope I can continue to do what I can to contribute to rugby in the United States in very little ways :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

PHEW! Boy has it been a long run...literally. Now that I work about 40 hours a week, I've had to bend over backwards to find the time and strength for rugby training. It's been really hard to drag myself to the gym after working 9 hours in a row. But, there's no way that I can let up for a second. I may not be able to give my 100% best effort all the time right now, and I may not be doing as much as I possibly can to get ready for rugby, but I just need to get through this part of the season and come out of it in at least some sort of decent shape. This is by far the hardest part of the season, because sometimes my will power and my body's exhaustion want to tell me that rugby season is over and that I don't need to worry about working out as hard or as frequently. But that couldn't be any farther from the truth; if anything it's actually the complete opposite. It's most important for me to work out as much as I can right now so that I don't come back into the fall unprepared and behind. These are the overtime hours that will really put me one step ahead. Like I have always said and believed, rugby season is never over.
I'm happy that I can still maintain under an 8 minute mile though, that's still a decent speed to have under my belt. But obviously there is still immense amounts of room for improvement. I hope that I can still maintain some good endurance in running; it's been a little harder to work on endurance with my time restraints, but I have to try harder to make sure it's not completely ignored. I have also really started to utilize various exercise machines at the gym to work out every main muscle group in my body. What's funny is that not only did I used to overlook almost all of the machines, but there were different muscles that I always ignored and thought of as sort of silly to work out. For instance, I always thought it was sort of funny that people worked out their back muscles, unless they were super old and weak since that sounded like the only legitimate purpose to it. But now when I think about it, every single muscle is needed in rugby. There isn't one that you don't use! And, I think it's actually really important to work out your back for rugby, especially when you think about how many times you're hit there, you land on it, and how much you truly use it for almost everything you do. Realizing how the seemingly silly back muscle work out proved to be important for rugby, I decided to make sure that I give the same, undivided attention to every other piece of my body since they're all equally important for rugby. I can definitely notice my arms growing in size, because now instead of doing a few dumbbell work outs I have been working out my biceps, triceps, wrists (even more important now since I broke my left one, so it's weaker than usual), chest, and deltoids all separately and all getting the same amount of attention. I have even gotten into doing leg workouts outside of just running, because I'm sure that there are certain things various exercises and machines can do to strengthen my leg muscles that running can't. As much as I catch myself on a regular basis questioning my work ethic and efforts for rugby and whether or not I'm doing enough, I'm at least putting in a decent amount of thought to this and trying to get on a good regimen based around the circumstances I am given.
Also, I have come across a rugby video game! It is called Rugby 2006 from EA Sports (bahaha), and I think it's hysterical. I can't play any "real matches" yet because I'm super unfamiliar with video games and lose virtual matches against South Africa at least 70 - 0, and I can't help but get disappointed, upset, and feeling like crying since it's still my little cyber rugby team getting crushed. But I think it's so much fun and really funny to practice kicking, tackling, and the "side step, shoulder charge, and hand off (a stiff arm, haha)." I think in a way it's actually somewhat helpful to remember all these little tactics and specifics to rugby, because sometimes they can be overlooked (especially in the heat of a game moment). That's why you need to know all these little things almost like they're on the back of your palm, because they're all the little things that count and matter so much in a rugby game. And the practice drills that you play on the side to learn the controls of the game are actually drills that I think would be really cool to do in real life! There was even a practice drill for drop kicking for points, and it made me realize how much I should practice that more. I guess in general I would say any sort of exposure to rugby, whether watching it or playing it (in real life or virtually, ha ha) is extremely beneficial to someone's rugby game. I'd love to use this video game for chalk talks with the real human rugby team, that is, haha.