Monday, December 29, 2014

"The Goat knows what to do..."

Man, I tear up every time I begin to write this post!

I cannot convey how truly amazing my experience...our Tobago was for the Tobago 7s tournament. From the moment I boarded that plane to the moment I landed back in the U.S, everything was a moment that I'll remember forever, and I only hope to continue to build on these opportunities in the future.

Throughout the 9 hours flying to Tobago, I had my rugby playlist on with my eyes closed but watery eyes filled with nerves, excitement, and energy. I had on my rugby shorts and shirt ready to go, assuming that I was going to get off the plane and go right into training.

It never ceases to amaze me how dynamic of a sport rugby is, because there is ALWAYS something new to learn from different players and coaches. We all came from such a variety of places, and everyone brought their own style of play.

It's also so humbling to play at this high level of competition, especially since I'm nowhere near as skilled or experienced as everyone I'm playing with. I can safely admit that I was pretty much out of my league there - with people coming from top colleges, top clubs, and even the Eagles themselves...little 'ol me is a nobody compared to all these incredible players! But that didn't matter; it never really does in rugby. Everyone was on the same level together and nobody treated anyone else better or worse based on where they came from.
 It can be a tough thing to deal with when I feel like I'm on the bottom of the totem pole and have nothing to offer to the team. But I need to work on getting that self conscious thinking out of my head; sometimes if I don't play well, then I assume nobody will want to talk to me...which is bizarro.

Whether someone drops a million passes or misses a million tackles.....working hard with the rest of the team, taking the commitment seriously, and being a positive and motivating teammate in general are all what makes a rugby player worthwhile, no matter what. And I KNOW for a fact that I produced all of those things while playing in Tobago, so there really shouldn't be anything I'm self conscious about or any reason why I didn't deserve to be there. Nerves can make the mind come up with ridiculous thoughts.

The training we had in the beginning of the trip was FANTASTIC - even if we had to squeeze in a lot in just a couple of days with people we primarily had never played with before. Ironically, we did a drill that was extremely similar to one that my hometown  club does regularly - with everyone split into two teams, we played a touch rugby game that allowed forward and backward passing. However, whenever you were touched/tagged, you had to KICK the ball to restart play instead of placing it on the ground, so there was a lot of practice even with receiving kick offs that was tossed into the drill. In order to "score", you had to kick the ball over a soccer net and have one of your teammates cleanly receive it in order for it to count. I was already DRIPPING by the end of this first drill since it was in humid 88 degree weather!

Another drill that I loved involved a small square marked off by cones and two lines formed for offense and defense. We started off with two defenders and three attackers, making our way up to having 3 vs. 4; to begin, each team would run out to the middle of the marked off square at the same time. Then the attacking team would choose a side of the square to run to, and based off which side the attacking team ran to the defending team would have to run to the opposite side. Both teams would turn around and then play touch, however the attacking team didn't have to wait for the defense to begin, so the longer it took for the defense to reach the opposite side and get situated the more space the attacking team gained uncontested. Again, this was a simple drill, but still involved a lot of quick thinking and quick decision making.

For tackling practice, it was great to break down every little aspect of  a tackle and gradually build up to the full tackle motion. In pairs we started as small as practicing the cheek-to-cheek positioning and getting your shoulder into the hit first. We continued to add more and more elements into it, such as the wrap and the drive, before finishing the full tackle. I think this is so vitally important to practicing tackling because in game situations there's (obviously) no time to think about all these steps, so sheer muscle memory and repetition are what ensures you will tackle the right way because that is how it all becomes natural.

I was also introduced to the phenomena of a blow out - literally never heard of it before this tournament but it's EXACTLY what I need for game prep. It's a quick but intense amount of sprinting to literally "blow out" your lungs and warm them up. Especially in tournament play, people say the first game is always the hardest since you're not as loose and you're still knocking out the kinks. Personally, I'm one of those people that practically needs to run a 5k before I feel warmed up for a game. In our warm ups, we prefaced everything we needed to work on with a timed 2 minutes of sprinting. THEN when we began running lines and practicing game play, I felt like I was running at pace. I'm really glad that I was introduced to this simple yet effective strategy, has literally answered my pregame prayers!!

After all our trainings and games, we were also encouraged to go in the pool as a cool down (I guess literally to cool down since it was friggin' hot but also to relieve our muscles/joints). Sometimes I felt as if the swimming was making me MORE tired, since in a way it was more exercise, but it really did make a major difference in how I felt later! I'm not sure yet how to incorporate this back home, but we're a hop, skip, and a jump away from the ocean so there's quite a lot of water for all of us to tread in here!!

I could honestly go on and on and on and on about the entire experience, but what I primarily want to remember and take away from this are two things that our coach said to us the day before the tournament began:

"Remember why you're here."
I even went to full lengths to make sure I kept all these reasons in my head by creating this in my rugby journal (PFFT...yes....I have a rugby journal AND a rugby blog...):

- gain more experience
- compete at a high level
- move forward in my rugby career
- work towards my personal goals
- "There is a reason why you were all CHOSEN to be here": a little different of an interpretation of "remember why you're here," but equally as important...especially for someone like me with confidence issues. Although I continually think of myself as an "underdog" or "out of my league," part of me really needs to cut that out and consider myself an equal. I worked just as hard to get there as everyone else did, and earned the same right and privilege to be on the Stars rugby team. I'm not a charity case and I wasn't chosen out of pity. I'm a teammate - not a superstar, not a water girl...just a positive and supportive teammate.
- eliminate the "off season"
- be a student of the game, leave my ego at the door
- learn new skills and tactics
- meet new people!
- experience Tobago
- see people from different countries/cultures play rugby
- overcome my fears and doubts
- develop more confidence in myself
- keep on improving
- don't become static
- learn from mistakes and accept that they happen

"Remember why you play rugby."
.............I don't even know if I can attempt to begin this one.
But even thinking back to all the prep and work I put into getting ready for this tournament shows why I consider rugby a career and the most important thing in my life. Rugby always puts my best foot forward and brings out all the good in me. It DEMANDS discipline and self control in every aspect of life and makes me a better person. It surrounds me with a supportive bunch that give me the largest family in the universe, and family members that I haven't even met yet. Whenever I'm doing something for rugby, I feel great. Nothing motivates me more. I wouldn't be able to run that extra mile, lift that extra weight, skip out on that drink or ( least try to) limit my Taco Bell intake if it weren't for rugby. It embraces my talents and always leaves room for improvement. It fuels my inner and outer strength and gives me the confidence to do anything. And most of all, it reminds me to stick up for myself and that I am worth a whole lot more...I am not to be taken for granted or taken advantage of because not only can I hold my own ground, but I also have a HUGE support system to pick me up when I fall. stop: #VEGAS

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What really matters

Unbelievable. This couldn't have come at a better timing than now.
At my rugby banquet last night, my team voted for me to win the Love of the Game award...I could've died and went to heaven right there.

With this big tournament in Trinidad coming up and my dreams and goals for my rugby career growing exponentially, the pressure is high right now. I'm putting in a lot of hard work, and as much as it's worth's also really freakin' hard. I'm pretty nervous to be playing at such a high level next week, and I basically just don't wanna get my ass handed to me on a silver platter.

But just like the spirit of this award....I need to remember what all of this is really about and why I continue to do it. I'm not trying to become the next big rugby star or break every record in the book, nor do I expect either of those things to ever happen. The real thing that keeps me going is the sheer LOVE OF THE GAME.

The people you meet from playing with different teams and against different teams are all so unique and spectacular in their own ways. While there are many uniform ways to hit baseball or shoot a foul shot, rugby playing has so much variety and there's something new to learn from everyone you play with. And this learning experience is always SO MUCH FUN because as a whole rugby players embrace each other as family. While we may even be enemies on the field, in the end we all love the game together and enjoy sharing the competition of it with one another. We even celebrate this after the game with some beverages and chats!

Rugby also is constantly putting your best foot forward. It accepts you for who you are and brings out every strength you possess mentally and physically. Many times, people don't even realize their own potential and strength until they engage in rugby....and I am one of them. There's always room for improvement but also always room for recognizing your own progress and successes. Every time you play in a practice or a game, you leave the field a better player than you were before. And you can forgive yourself for making mistakes, because you have a supportive team surrounding you that will help you through it and also help you improve from it.....and maybe even laugh about it later :) **Turner, remember when I friggin' tried to punt the ball out of a lineout and punted it into your face by accident? THAT WAS A BAD CHOICE.**

So whatever level you're playing at or how far along you are in your rugby career, just continue to enjoy the ride. You're already living the dream by being part of this worldwide family that loves you, and by expending your energy to become your best self and support your teammates.

THANK YOU, NSWR, for reminding me of this. It's always true, but ambition can sometimes blind people. No matter what happens in this tournament next week, I know I'll be with a team that will keep me moving forward and I'll be returning home to a team that supports every step I take. It just can't get any better than this!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

" is for rich people who don't need jobs...and you're not that."

So I just found out this past week that I have been invited to return to the Las Vegas Invitational in February 2015.....HOO RAH!
Of course, this means that besides attending the actual tournament I need to also show up to mandatory training and team practices beforehand...which are obviously additional days off from work that I DO NOT HAVE.
I'm really fortunate to have a job setting with supervisors and bosses who are supportive of what I'm doing and are actually working to try and have me still be able to go. But, once again, this has thrown my mother into a fit of worry and frustration since she believes my priorities aren't straight. She's legitimately worried that I am going to lose my job from rugby. Obviously, if my job says that I cannot attend the tournament then I need to rule it out for this year, but I also refuse to believe my mother's thought that "Rugby is for rich people who don't need jobs." 

On the contrary, rugby brings together the most dedicated, hard working, and motivated individuals I have ever seen....regardless of socioeconomic status. Yes, it's true that rugby players who play at an elite level, and even as much as a professional, do not have the luxury of receiving monetary compensation for it. But that doesn't mean all the people who play at this level are "rich" or are sitting around doing nothing else. MANY players still maintain full time jobs and work around that. It just seems unbelievable because it truly is an amazing feat - fitting in training and practices outside of at least a 40-hour work week.

However, although so many elite players are able to dedicate the time and energy to practicing and training around their job's still undeniable that simply travelling to/from and playing in elite tournaments takes a lot of time...and time-off from work........and I just can't seem to figure out a balance of the two. You need a job to be able to afford these tournaments, but at the same time you need enough time off to be able to travel and play in tournaments.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?! Does anyone have any feedback? To all you rugby players that continuously travel all over the nation and world to compete at this level - what line of work are you in that allows you to take the necessary amount of time off?! This truly seems to be the only roadblock I can foresee as of right now; even if I'm granted the ability to go to this tournament in Vegas, it's just going to be even harder to get the ability to attend the other tournaments that are occurring throughout the rest of the year (not to mention that my brother is also getting married in this upcoming year!!!).

Does anyone have any personal experiences or any type of feedback to contribute to this?

And in the mean time, if you're interested in contributing to the Stars 7s Rugby, there's a variety of ways! I have my own gofundme page (click here to see it!) and if you donate over $20 then you receive an awesome USA flag bracelet

You can also message me for some tax deductible donation options, and if you know an organization that is interested in sponsorship...there are opportunities for us to display logos on our apparel starting at $200. Just contact me or comment here for more info!





I guess a good place to start is to summarize the end of our rugby season. We truly went out with a bang!

The first game we had after our devastating loss (see post below for details) was a nail biter. There was absolutely no sense of self-defeat because we were in it and giving 110% the entire game. I'd say the primary reason why we weren't able to pull off a win was because as a team, we struggle to put points on the scoreboard. We have some amazing players that can break through tackles like no other and be gone with the wind, which bails us out and makes up for tries that are scored on us, but no team can depend on that for all of their points and expect to win.
I had a goal in my mind before that game that I defined and focused on......and absolutely FAILED TO COMPLETE. Playing fullback has been a tough and difficult transition for me. After that loss, I felt completely devastated and hopeless. I was working hard, putting in all the hours, showing up to every practice, reading and studying about the position...and still just screwing up in every way, shape, or form.

But luckily, I knew that I couldn't just toss up fullback as a loss and give up on learning it...because like sevens rugby, every skill involved in playing fullback is transferable to any other position in rugby.
Learning how to tackle someone in a one-on-one situation is really the ultimate test to see how perfected your tackling skills and tactics are. There's really no room for error, half-assing, or leaving it up to blunt force. When tackling as a forward, you're in a mass of chaos that allows you to hit someone after they've taken 2 steps and haven't reached full velocity. There's also tons of support players around you to bail you out of missing a tackle or just slowing someone down. But at fullback...none of these luxuries are available. You can't just slow someone down or knock them off balance; you've gotta FULLY get them down or else it's a one-way ticket to the try zone.
So needless to say, I've lost count of how many times I have made a damn fool out of myself  while playing this position. It has been straight up HUMILIATING for me every time someone has broken by me as the last line of defense, which has resulted in points basically every time.

Anyways, in our last game of the season, we were going up against the #1 team in the league. They had beaten almost every team by a landslide, and we had already seen them crush teams before in a tournament over the summer. I remember clear as day my coach saying to all of us before the game, "HEY, upsets happen every day."
She really made me feel like we shouldn't count ourselves out just yet. We shouldn't even be aiming to lose by a close margin....we should be aiming to WIN.

After every game that I failed to perform at fullback, I found myself saying the same damn things over and over - "I didn't hit low enough....I wasn't watching their hips when tracking....I didn't execute the fast-slow-fast with the right timing...I tried to grab with my hands instead of leading with my shoulders..." and I was getting SO-FREAKIN-FRUSTRATED from saying the same damn things over and over but not actually doing them in the game.
In my pre-game prep, I did everything I could on my own to warm up my body but at the same time warmed up my mental game. I kept repeating everything over and over that I needed to accomplish in order to perform at fullback: aiming low, watching the runner's hips, fast-slow-fast, initial contact with my shoulders....all specific little tactics that together are mandatory for tackling someone. I continued to repeat these things in the warm up drills we did, and I continued to repeat them even more when I stepped on the field. Those things never left my head, and I think that the conscious decision I made to continue thinking through every step of tackling actually changed my game around.
I still remember the first one-on-one tackling encounter I was faced with: I had to run across to the opposite side of the field to track down this girl from a quick hands the other team did that resulted in an overload and a fast break. I just barely caught up to her, but ended up reaching/grabbing with my hands just from not being able to slow down for a millisecond and aim low. Needless to was a shitshow. She stiff armed me right in the face and I thought she clawed my eyeball out. After she scored, I felt like I needed an eye patch and would have to retreat to piracy as a career because I was so embarrassed. But I just continued to repeat all those things in my  head that I  needed to remember in order to successfully tackle someone. I was so enraged about that whole situation that...once again....I vowed I WILL NEVER EVER LET THAT HAPPEN IN THE REST OF THIS GAME.
Then I came upon almost the same situation again - fast break, one-on-one, near the try zone....but luckily this time I was able to beat her to the spot. In almost like a slow-motion less-than-a-second moment, I focused on this girl's hips, squared up my shoulders, and brought her down to the ground....and forced her to cause a knock on!
Then near the end of the game it was very clear that this was about to happen again - a girl looping to the outside and breaking through the defense along the sideline...b-lining it to the try zone...except this time, I knew she had more momentum that me, and I knew that I was almost caught dead in my tracks. With me flatfooted and that girl moving a bajillion miles an hour, of course it seemed like there was practically no chance of me tackling her. But even if you find yourself not in the perfect setting to make a tackle (which probably happens more often than not), you can't count yourself out. I used that little pause to square up, track her hips, aim with my shoulders...and although it wasn't pretty, she went down to the ground and the crisis was averted.

Anyways, long story short: WE FUCKING WON. WE WON. 
It was freakin' incredible - we had forwards and backs score, everyone putting their heart and soul into every ruck, tackle, scrum, lineout...basically every step we took on the field had a purpose to it. This was one of the greatest victories I have ever experienced because it was 100% earned by everyone who was on and off the field. Even in the week before practice everyone fought hard to improve their own game and everyone else's by playing at a competitive level and taking drills seriously. don't ever count yourself out. Don't ever chalk anything up as a loss. No matter how poorly you're doing at a position or how rough your team's season has been, it's never too late to improve and turn things around.
We sure as hell did.

Monday, October 6, 2014

We're on to Worcester.

Sooooo this past weekend we lost.
...real bad.
We've lost games before, and even lost by more points than in this one, but for some reason...this one had a lingering sting.
Oh, and it was basically in the middle of a typhoon. Tons of rain and mud (I actually LOVED IT). In the end when all was said and done, we were left feeling completely miserable in every way, shape, or form....chilled to the bone.

I think what made the loss most painful for me was that many of the mistakes we made were in our control. Sure you can blame the referee or the weather or the scrappy opponents all you want, but in the end no one causes your own defeat except for Y-O-U.
I also couldn't stand watching teammates get angry at each other. Things seemed to just fall apart, and for inexplicable reasons. It probably hurt even more because it happened after coming off of a streak of progression - we just won two games before this and have been showing massive improvements at practices. We made all this forward progress and then fell flat on our faces. hard.

How do you pick yourself back up from that?

After the game, I wanted to cry - actually, I wanted to sob uncontrollably. I came close, but not a single tear was shed. Because crying wouldn't change the score, wouldn't have made me miss fewer tackles, or made the outcome of that game any different than it was. It wouldn't make that loss hurt any less, and it wouldn't help make anything right afterwards.

Inside my brain, I began conjuring up some questions on the long two hour ride home sitting in damp muddy clothes:

What are you going to do about this?

How are you going to get back up on your two feet after falling, and move forward stronger than you ever were before?

Where are the areas in your life that you can dedicate more time and motivation towards improvement?

Specifically, what areas can you work on that were lacking in today's game performance?

When did you start to lose sight and focus this week (and may not have even realized it)?

What aspects of the game do you need to study more and what questions do you have that need to be answered?


I didn't have any answers to those questions at the time, but this was a very interesting week for all these happenings to occur. I'm very lucky and fortunate to be a sports fan, because following what has just occurred with the New England Patriots completely inspired me and starting pointing me in the right direction towards answers.

With less time than usual to recover from a devastating loss and more harassment and negativity from the media than ever, the Patriots were still able to completely turn around their situation and create a learning experience out of a travesty. Instead of being crushed, the Patriots knew they needed to rebuild and get RIGHT back to work. No time for tears.

No bashing, no blaming or pointing fingers, no wallowing in self-pity....just ON TO CINCINNATI. I have never seen anyone lose with such pure class. And I think that because they were able to lose with dignity and poise, they were able to come out STRONGER THAN EVER BEFORE. It's not a matter of how many mistakes you make or how many games you lose, it's how you handle it and channel it into something constructive rather than destructive.

It's not that I don't ever want me or my teammates to lose a game again, but I never want us to shoot ourselves in the foot and deteriorate from the mistakes we've made. I don't ever want us to have that losing state of mind, where you feel defeated by yourself more than you were physically defeated by an opponent.

SO - we're on to Worcester.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Still cannot believe it, but I am going to be heading off to TOBAGO in December for some competitive sevens rugby!!!

I'm even more pumped because I know that this time around, when I enter the high competition rugby realm I'll be WAY more prepared than I was when I had the opportunity to go to Vegas. Every single day that I am able to go to practice or play in a game, I'm a better player than I was the day before.

Experience and exposure = Improvement. No matter what. Even if you're just on the sidelines during a game.

From the life situation I was in last year, my training and rugby experience was EXTREMELY limited. When I played in the Vegas sevens tournament in early January, the last time I had played rugby was in OCTOBER....and that was a sporadic, spur-of-the-moment, borrow-this-person's-cleats-and-that-person's-shorts tournament.
It was devastating to come to the realization in early spring that even though I was still 100% putting in everything I could possibly spare into rugby, it wasn't enough. Not even close. This realization is partially what made me move home and [temporarily] leave the social work realm. 

NOW, I am so blessed to be an active member of a welcoming and hard working rugby team here in my hometown. I'm learning new things every single day and meeting amazing people in the process. There's no way in hell I would be going to Tobago without everything I have learned with this team and the dedication/structure that has come along with it. 
With that being said: I should also give a major shout out to the crossfit box I am a part of, The Swamp. Another incredibly accepting and motivating group of individuals. Again, without the records of weight training and speed workouts from them I wouldn't be where I am today.



If you donate $20 or more, you'll receive one of these freakin' awesome stars n stripes bracelets!!!

Click here to donate: 

Monday, September 15, 2014


Where to BEGIN?!
I forgot my freakin' rugby journal (yes, "the rugby diaries" is actually a tangible item as well as a blog!) yesterday at practice so I didn't get a chance to jot down everything I wanted to recap like I normally do. However, I think I still have retained the gist.
....but no promises.

We started off with a fun rugby game in order to get into the mindset of defending...
SIDE NOTE: I need to be reminded to keep special track of these games because they are not only very helpful drills for rugby teams, they are also great fun ways to promote rugby awareness to younger populations - like all the way down to the elementary age. I wish I had more of these games in my back pocket when I worked with high school aged boys in Chicago because it gets rid of people's initial fear of the contact and aggression involved with rugby but still teaches a lot of important skills.
This subject was on my mind a lot yesterday when a rugger told me that I could promote rugby to little girls because one in a grocery store recently thought I was Elsa....if Elsa plays rugby, little girls all over the world can too!

BOOM. This is gonna be a thing.

Anyways, we played a fun game that involved defending a small triangle made from cones. Basically, the triangle was a try zone that an attacking team would attempt to touch the ball down in. The attacking team would set up wide around the area of the triangle and the defenders would start in the triangle itself. The defenders could throw/kick off the ball anywhere they wanted to, but they were not allowed to move out of the triangle and start defending until the attacking team picked up the ball and started playing. The attacking team could pass the ball any way they wanted to (forwards or backwards), but once they were tagged by the defense they were not allowed to move. After being tagged 3 times, the attacking and defending teams would switch roles (defenders would become attackers, etc.).
This game helped practice a variety of defending techniques, each having it's own benefits and costs. It helps practice not getting sucked in by an attacker and making sure to cover all space and gaps when playing defense. So much communication is involved. Matching up one-on-one sometimes worked but also sometimes backfired. If you match up on defense but don't stay flat/together then you leave a lot of spaces for people to cut through. There needs to be a balance of both.

In order to prepare for our game this upcoming Saturday, we put a lot of focus into setting up a defense tight off of a ruck and heavily dependent on forwards play. This is almost ironic for me to write because I feel like I just recently discussed why we were too dependent on that in our last game, which left the wing/outside wide open. However, different teams have different strengths that they utilize and many times you need to cater your tactics (especially on defense) to combat theirs.

'Tis a strategy, if you may. (SIDE NOTE: like cats and rugby? Check out my tumblr -  Rugby as Told by Cats!)
And whilst practicing crashes/bangers off of rucks and ensuring that the space tight off of a ruck is covered, we didn't fail to neglect the outside. We practiced both - heavily guarding the rucks and still covering the backs on the outside.

But the main thing we needed to take away from practicing our defensive structure is just how important setting up posts really is. If you've never heard this term before, posts are almost a very literal translation from what it is as an inanimate object to what it is as a person. When a ruck occurs, the first two defenders that reach it (after, of course, there are already people rucking) immediately set up tight off the last foot of the ruck and loudly communicate the position to the rest of their teammates. They become not only markers for where the rest of the defensive line needs to set up but they are also pillars standing in the way of a quick pick and go attempt. Many teams, especially ones with a strong forwards game, will utilize that space right off of a ruck because it can unknowingly be left open and an easy gap to sneak through.
Another important matter regarding the posts is that once two people designate themselves as the defensive posts off of a ruck, they should not move from that position. This can be more difficult than it sounds because it's instinctual on defense to immediately press forward. But when the posts set up off of a ruck, it's their responsibility to communicate to the rest of the team when they should be holding (so they're not offsides) and when the ball is out of a ruck. They should continue to stand in this post position to completely ensure it's protected.
The players after the post are in positions called X and Y. So the defensive set up off of a ruck should look like this:
These two positions should also be designated in case shifting needs to occur. X and Y positions ensure that this space will always be covered, however it also makes shifting easier for all the other defenders. Instead of running around to the end of the defensive line to even out spacing and coverage, players can enter right outside the Y position and communicate to their teammates to bump out.

This may sound like a lot to handle in the midst of a chaotic field and while also thinking heavily about tackling the bitch runnin full steam at you, but calm yourself. It will come.

You may look like a shitshow over and over again at practice trying to figure this out, but once you're on the field, it will be crazy how this is all of the sudden second nature to you. It may even take a few games as well...or a few seasons....but just fucking PRACTICE THIS SHIT and eventually you'll be preaching it on the field.
**which is another really important reason why you need to actually GO to practice in the first place. It's basically an even safer space to fuck up in.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

[side note]

Currently in an avoidance of real life I am updating as many posts as I can so they have "tags" on them that make them easier for people to refer to and look back on. So, for example, if you're looking for a post about decision making then when you search that tag you'll find all the posts about that subject!

Hope it helps!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tough love.

Tonight at practice began the official reconstruction after being beat down from a loss. We already brought each other's spirits up through positivity and seeing improvement in our mistakes, but now it's time for business or else we ain't goin' nowhere.
Where would Carol be today without that wake up call?!

Many a time I have discussed how important it is for rugby players to be okay with making mistakes, but with that means you also need to be okay with hearing constructive criticism. Clearly you can't fuck up and then continuously keep telling yourself you did a good job or else you're just going to keep on fucking up! You can be strengths based with yourself but also accept that fact that you need to improve and keep working hard towards change. FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME: no one's perfect.

Going into this week after our last game, my goal in my head was clear: FITNESS.
I'm glad that as a team we did some fitness together, although I'm looking at it through an appreciative lens. I'm extremely lucky that we did fitness at practice, it's always an added bonus.

.........many of you are probably saying this right now:

Wanna know why?
Because you're lucky that it's a scheduled activity you have to do and are surrounded by your teammates and coaches motivating you.....otherwise, YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN.
I think we can all attest to the fact that it is WAY harder to motivate yourself do undertake fitness alone rather than with positive influences around you. And every player should be accountable for their own fitness simply because it is an activity you can do anytime, anywhere. Fitness really is an individualistic activity and it's really no one else's responsibility but YOURS to be physically prepared for rugby.

I've been trying to put in a lot of my own effort into fitness, but at the same time the first game of the year is always tough. No matter how many runs you go on or how many weights you lift, there's really no fully preparing for the first game of the season. The only way to do it is run with a 50lb weight on your back and have someone follow you that's beating you with a stick. Good luck!
But it's also extremely important to recognize that no matter what, YOU WILL BE SORE AND TIRED AND HURTING AFTER YOUR FIRST GAME. Recognize the difference between pain and soreness. Make sure you can tell what is a sharp pain vs. an ache. If you can categorize something as a sharp pain, pull in the reigns and sit out a few plays. If you can categorize something as an ache, PUSH THROUGH IT or the stiffness will only get worse.

Anyways, to start off practice we did a great conditioning drill that involves jogging, sprinting, and burpees for a significant period of time. That's probably as close to the fitness of a rugby game as you'll get. We jogged laps around the field until we heard one whistle blow, which signaled dropping to the ground, getting back up as quick as possible, and continuing jogging or two whistle blows, which signaled a sprint until we heard the one whistle again. Needless to say: it was a BITCH. But when it's a bitch, that's when you know you're improving. No matter what place you're in or how many people seem to be passing you in the laps, everyone is out of breath and working at their own self improvement. There's no one person putting in more effort than the other - it's hard for us all.

We then went back to the building blocks of defense. We started out with some touch scrimmages to get into the groove of matching up and keeping space while defending. In our game on Saturday, we continuously ran into some issues with focusing too much on staying tight off the rucks and then leaving the outside wiiiiiiide open.
This also came with a focus on not having multiple players get sucked into a tackle. CLEARLY if your teammate is struggling to make a tackle/looks like it'll be broken through then by all means help a bitch out and stop standing and watching. But other than that, when attacking teams hit the gaps of course it's tough to keep space and prevent another gap from opening where you should've been standing in the first place.
There was a moment in our scrimmage when a pretty decent switch was made on the attacking team. This caused some confusion on the defensive side because in a switch, multiple attacking players enter one lane and then cross a whole bunch of other lanes (remember the benefits of the 45 degree angle? This is where it comes in handy yet also fucks over the defense). The defensive player matched up with the switcher cannot cover this person anymore or else they would have to run through the ball carrier, tackler, and then across a bunch of other defenders. Makes no sense!

It's extremely important to make the distinction between matching up with a player and with a lane. Yes, call out a person that you are matching up against, but when "pigtails" loops wide or runs a switch, this is where shifting is extremely important. On a switch, then it has to be a quick decision and communication for someone else to pick up that player and have all the other defenders shift to what attacking options are still present. For a loop, the minute you see your person loop around to the end of an attacking line start yelling your ass off for a shift to the left or right.

We also did a lot of tackling practice, and something that I missed from college: we called it THE GAUNTLET! This is one-on-one tackling in a narrow tunnel. Yes it's intimidating and many times even humiliating, but these are definitely some of the hardest tackles to make. If you can master the hardest, then the rest will come. AGAIN, this is a blessing in disguise because with all eyes on you, then you have all the help and support you could possibly want on your side. Your coach and teammates aren't going to be able to watch closely every time you fuck up and miss a tackle, but in the gauntlet you're able to have where you need improvement identified right on the spot.
....are you catching a trend here? Avoidance is a bitch. Rugby karma is real.
And in the end, we're all pals here. We all want to see each other succeed. Always remember that criticism is coming from a caring, supportive, and positive place. Not everyone is a Communications major (such as, *cough cough* yours truly was) or even a social while it may come out like bitchassness in the end it's just someone trying to help you. Don't ever forget that! Put your ego aside and take some advice from someone else - we can all use input that will help us improve. Of course positive reinforcement is important and helpful, but this "tough love" is what will really make you go anywhere in the end.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Post Game Progression

Methinks that these next few posts (including the two before this) are gonna get a little preachy/sports psychology-esque, but let's roll with it.
...or ruck over it, if you will.
We lost our first game of the season yesterday but the framing and the attitude drawn from it is what's really going to carry us far. I think that the way the team played was an exact indication of the benefits that can result from having a hard working team all around - related to the previous post, this team is so lucky to have a hard working yet accepting culture. We don't have any of those slacker starters or veterans that feel immunity or priority over other players. Everyone clearly works hard together and is on the same page.
It was a great combination to see starters/veterans setting the bar high then having rookies filter in and meet that standard. Who knows how different it would've gone if there was a "fuck it" vibe amongst the veterans, or in the other extreme if there was an overly critical vibe. Mistakes were embraced and tackled head on, one by one. This is so important because many rugby teams can get so caught up in their spirit of the game that they actually lose sight of what's really the goal.

Which segways right into the main theme of this post.....GOAL SETTING!

On individual and team levels, goal setting is so incredibly important.
NOTE: In this post, and many following this one, I am drawing directly from a book called Focused for Rugby: A proven approach for peak performance by Adam R. Nicholls and Jon Callard. It's a pretty easy read to order online and I highly recommend it! If you're interested in learning more about a certain topic that I discuss from this book let me know and I will make you a copy of the chapter :)

There is such a variety of goals that you can set for yourself and your team that it's insane, sometimes overwhelming. Especially if you're a new player or a new team, it can be daunting to figure out what to do in terms of goal setting because it seems like EVERYTHING needs improvement.
But narrowing down on a time frame and content will help you go further. It's as if you're about to clean the White House after someone threw a Fourth of July rager - you'll get it done faster and more effectively if you clean one room at a time rather than trying to sweep over every single space.
...............what the hell was that analogy?

Work with meh here.

In my social work realm, we always used the acronym SMART to remember all the important aspects of setting a goal. However, in this book they take it a step further and make SMARTER goals. Here's how:

Specific - no vague shit. "I will do my best" is not a goal, that should be a given. Making better tackles is a common rugby goal, however it may also be beneficial to take that a little further, such as "I will drive through my tackles." The more specifics the better, especially because if you start with an extremely specific goal it shouldn't take long to accomplish it and move on to the next one.

Measurable - for all the peeps into numerical data and logic, this will work well for you. Keeping numbers on your goals is one of the most concrete ways to see your own progress. Timing your mile each week or keeping track of your weight selections when lifting are a few ways you can continue to move forward yet also look back on your data and congratulate yourself. Even aiming to drop one less pass in game can be beneficial.

Action oriented - THIS IS IMPORTANT. Now that you have started the works of creating a goal, HOW THE FUCK ARE YOU GOING TO ACHIEVE IT? Hypothesize your goals all day but in the end if you can't figure out how reach it, then that's all they are - goals. La dee freakin' da.

Realistic - Find the balance between realistic yet also challenging. Breaking through every single tackle on attack is not realistic. You cannot aim for perfection because NOBODY'S PERFECT! Know where you're at and set the bar from there.

- Set a deadline. Short, medium, and long-term goals all have their own benefits but they're also drastically different. It's important to utilize all three types of timed goals because where one is beneficial, it is also lacking in something else. Long term goals are great because it's a lot of time for you to keep tabs on yourself and measure your progress, however they can also get lost and forgotten very easily. Short term goals are great because you will have quick results however certain things just take longer to develop.

Elastic - Give yourself some flexibility. Similar to the realistic aspect of goal setting, cut yourself some slack. Don't expect to be an All Black overnight. Even in the measuring of your goals, you can add a range rather than aiming for a specific number. "I will make 5 or more tackles in my next game" is better than aiming to make 8 tackles.

Repeatability - This is an interesting one. After you have achieved a goal, don't throw it out the fucking window. Keep it in your back pocket. I think that as a team we have struggled with this at practices, because we will achieve a goal of learning a new skill yet completely forget about it moments later when we have moved on to something else. Your goals are useless if you don't make them permanent factors in your playing. Similar to attack in rugby, the purpose of goals is to be continuously moving forward and making progress.

There are also two types of goal setting styles: performance oriented and success oriented. When setting performance goals, they're usually geared towards self improvement however they can also be used for team purposes. The primary focus is improvement as players. Success goals involve more comparison and competition, usually can involve benchmarking via social comparison.


Success oriented goals leave a lot of room for fluctuation because they depend too much on exterior factors. Of course it's okay to want to win and succeed as a player and/or team, but looking internally rather than externally will get you there more effectively. Focus on your own shit. We sometimes get too caught up in measuring our own success based off of where everyone else is. Either we're too hard on ourselves because everyone seems to be playing at a higher level or we're too lazy/easy on ourselves because everyone's playing at a lower level. Especially if you struggle with confidence and believing in yourself (*hand shoots up in the air*) comparisons to others can be extremely self destructive.

Personal life example:
at crossfit a few weeks ago, we did a mile run after a workout. I benchmarked my progress off of how far ahead someone else was from me and immediately started getting down on myself because I thought they got too far ahead. However, in the end when I heard the time I ran a mile in, it was one of the fastest times I've ever had. If I had never found out that time, I would've continued going on under the impression that I had failed and made no progress simply because I wasn't as fast as someone else. But in reality, that was a huge accomplishment!

It's also not a bad thing to want to increase your own playing time or even work towards getting into a starting line up, both things that are natural and acceptable goals. But it gets hurtful when you begin comparing yourself to other teammates, and start working towards "beating them" for the position. THAT is a selfish way to reach your goal and can actually set you back in other areas. If you want to work towards starting in a game or even playing A-side at all, just focus more on what you can do to improve as a player and CALL IT A DAY.

Here's a great table listing questions about your goals and giving you space to physically write out the answers. Sounds childish, but keeps it clear cut and concrete (I know the image cuts off, but if you click on it then you can save this table and even print it for your own use!):

The way I see it - what harm can be done? Clearly if you are looking to progress and improve, there are resources out there for you. So give it a shot! What do you have to lose?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Playtime pouting.

I've listened in on some discussions recently revolving around the never ending battle of who should play in a rugby game - more specifically, who should play based on skill level vs. who should play that earned it. Players and coaches have handled this topic in such a variety of ways and every team is so drastically different from one another that there really is no set answer.
Many of us have seen that naturally talented player come to practices hungover or not at all and then start over players that work their tails off but just can't seem to get the hang of it all yet. It happens all the time, and in writing it's almost a no brainer that this sounds wrong...however when you're put in that situation on the field where you need a reliable, solid figure in a specific position then many times people will go with what they know will perform. It's comforting, makes them feel more confident.
HOWEVER, does that make it right? No, not really. Does that mean the underdog hard worker should always start? No, not necessarily.
But I will say this: I 100% full heartedly believe that rugby is karmic - you get what you give. Although the results aren't immediate, and in many cases it may take a long-ass-time to see any of the results, it's there. That hungover no-show talented player? EVENTUALLY, they will fall. That sounds so negative, but being so careless about your teammates and your performance can only go on for so long without hurting you...or in the end potentially destroying your rugby career.
On the other hand, that underdog hardworking-but-mediocre player? Is going to go SO-FREAKIN-FAR. It's not only because they can handle rejection, pressure, and anything else thrown at them since they've already seen it...but all the time in even sometimes the most subtle ways, they are improving. CONSTANTLY. While one day it may be they only dropped 6 passes instead of 7 or they even figured out where to stand in a defensive line, eventually it's going to pay off. May need to be an extremely long term investment, like maybe even years....but IT'S GOING TO PAY OFF. I JUST KNOW IT.
The lazy player may not ever experience the drastic reality of ruining their rugby career, but they will eventually be surpassed. Their talent does not solidify their playing time, at least not forever and ever, because there will come a day where that underdog will be able to carry their own weight and will be considered over that talented player. Even if they aren't the showstopper the talented player is, they will still play.....someday. And it will be GLORIOUS and things will only continue to get better for that mediocre hard worker.
But not only will that mediocre hard worker personally succeed, they will take the team to places they couldn't have dreamed of. They will inspire everyone else to work hard, and follow a good example. They will be a listening and empathetic ear when other mediocre players experience the pains of not starting or not playing at all. They will help everyone through these times, get them back on the saddle, and guide them through the same grueling process they once had to go through. THEY are the true victors and who lift the team up because of the immense amount of resilience they have built.

(I know that many of my peeps are going to get a kick out of me doing a Khaleesi rant right now, but this shit's real!) Take this unbelievable underdog character who couldn't have gone any more from zero-to-hero. While there's literally zero athleticism involved in this underdog story, the process is still the same. For a very long period of time no one considered her a threat or of any type of potential. She was repeatedly told she was worthless and incapable of accomplishing anything, while so many other people around her took for granted what they had. Through self confidence, hard work, and relationship building, she was able to overcome these motherfuckers (excuse my language, I'm getting a bit amped now) one by one and start a revolution. She utilized her own strengths and self confidence while also relying and trusting her companions (teammates, if you will...) to go so far. She empathized with slaves because she was in a way once a slave herself, and she was able to encourage others to liberate themselves.
This is also apparent in the movie Gladiator, which I ritually watch before every single game, but that needs another entire post of its own. 

The reason why I am feeling so passionate about this is because I have experienced it myself. Just for kicks, I looked back on the ye olde entries of this blog and found this one from about 5 years ago....when I was a sophomore in college:
October 5th, 2009: No one knows how hard coaching really is until they experience it for themselves. I KNOW that my rugby coach subs people in accordingly. Last year, I went through the pains of being disappointed when not playing. I probably went through the worst of it out of anyone. I worked my ass off, more than anyone on the team if not everyone on the team combined, for games that I wouldn't even get to dress for. And one of those games was the one game that my family drove 10 hours to see, meaning they drove ten hours to see me not start, not sub in, and not play period. It can't really get any worse than that, and I'll never forget how hard I worked and how much effort I put in. I was shut down many many times, thrown aside and not played for long periods of time. I didn't just get my starting spot out of thin air or because I'm a favorite or anything like that, I worked hard to get to where I am. And I fully believe that if you REALLY, TRULY want something then if you work hard enough for it you'll get it. You just can't take no for an answer. If you don't start in a game, then you think, "Okay fine, I'll work SO hard this next week that I'll definitely start," and you continue saying that until the rewards finally come. Who knows when that time is, but I believe if you really keep at it then you will be rewarded sooner or later. 
...DAYUM. I completely forgot that my family had driven so far to see me stand on the sidelines, and after I had made every practice and done runs and sprints before and after each practice. I remember working and working and working and working and working some more to receive NOTHING. And it was truly devastating. But I also remember thinking that there's always more I could do, and the only way to ensure I'd have a chance at starting the next game was through working hard and attending practices. And it really really did pay off. I'm no superstar or anything now, but I've made a lot of strides from that time and still continue to progress today by never taking any playtime for granted and for always giving 110%.

I'd like to give a quick shout out to my first rugby coach ever when I started playing in college, who gave me this mentality and reinforced these beliefs in me. If not for her and when she gave me a long awaited chance at playing A-side, then who knows where my faith would be or my perspective on this topic. 


Let's all just get out our nerves real quick:

Okay! No more heebie jeebies.
When we were preparing at practice for our first game tomorrow, that's what we all acted like while playing.....which is ridiculous because we were doing pretty much exactly what we have been doing at practice for at least the past month!
Nerves can REALLY turn your rugby world upside down. It can be a realllll rugby buzz kill if you let them take over. But sometimes it may seem so freakin' hard to control them - even just sitting here typing this I've got sparks running through me and my heart is pumping like the commuter rail because I'm so excited for the game tomorrow!
....and THAT'S OKAY. 
It's NORMAL to be nervous on a rugby field, because there's so much going on around you and there's no other time where you have to make that much decision making that quickly unless you happen to be performing heart surgery. So now that you can give yourself a soothing pat on the back for realizing you're normal for being nervous, the real question is:
HOW DO YOU CONTROL IT?How do you slow yourself down in the midst of a high pressure/tempo environment? I believe that all of the best players you see on tv or even on your own respectable team have figured out some sort of technique in their own way to handle this above anything else. Above learning how to pass, tackle, ruck, kick, tie their cleats, breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide....I think great rugby players have learned how to literally "keep calm and carry on" in the middle of chaos. They have learned how to sit with being nervous and cultivate it into an advantage.
SELF TALK PEOPLE....IT WORKS WONDERS. IT'S NOT JUST A COUNSELING TECHNIQUE. The more you immerse yourself in this chaotic environment the more comfortable you will become in it. So if you are a new player - PATIENCE, grasshopper. Just drink it in while you're on the field and learn via experience. YES - YOU'RE GOING TO FUCK UP. But we all are going to fuck up, that's part of the game.

If you've been playing for a while and still find yourself nervous before a game or even when you're about to step onto the field: draw on previous experiences. Try your best to think rationally - what about the last game you played in made you really nervous? What could've gone differently for you to react better? What will you do this time when you encounter THE SAME SITUATION (your rugby fears ain't goin' nowhere! so conquer them meow!!) in this game?! What can you sincerely be proud of yourself for and what have you done really well to contribute to the team's success in the past?
...that last one is a biggie - you need to ALWAYS remember that you are capable of wondrous things. You may remember a lot of things you have done wrong or can still do better, but there is always SOMETHING that you have done right.....even if it's just showing up to practice or cheering on a teammate. Every-little-thing-counts.
And forget about whatever trust issues you may have in your life - whether it's in a relationship with a person or with what's in your Wonder Ball - because in the end no matter what your teammates are there to support you and you're all working towards the same common goal. There may even be some players that you don't like, or some players that seem like a showboat that want to always be in the spotlight, but in the end NO ONE GETS ANYWHERE WITHOUT WORKING WITH THE REST OF THE TEAM.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Laying the egg

SO, funny story involved with this tactic. We spent some time a few practices ago learning about a ball positioning called "laying the egg"
...which literally derives its name from your ability to squeeze out the rugby ball between your legs.

Definitely takes a little practicing to get used to it (then again...what doesn't take practice to get used to it?), but as you're running with the ball and taken into contact by a defender, you need to start propelling your weight and theirs forward to prepare yourself to "lay the egg."
Land with your body on top of the ball (NOTE: this will take some practice but BE CAREFUL in the meantime. I have done this accidentally and it hurts like a beyotch if you hit your rib cage/lungs wrong....wind knocked out of you for dayzz.). Push the ball backwards towards your team by having it come out through your legs. This is an important technique because it eliminates poaching by the other team. It also helps you become more conscious of pushing the ball straight back to your team rather than flopping around and making it become a hot mess. The scrumhalves of the world will also thank you for giving them one less thing to think about when going for the ball to pass out somewhere before there's a chance of them being bulldozered.
Many people may get nervous that throughout this time they could be called for "not rolling away" by the referee, but with the amount of movement/"effort" you'll be making to get the ball out it shouldn't be a problem. There's also a plethora of the other things the referee is concerned about at the same time. Just make sure the ball is on the ground/you're not carrying it anymore and it is moving towards your teammates. Clearly you can't just sit there and make your body into a bungalow for the ball.
Whilst it sounds ridiculous and even awkward, my coach made a good point in shutting down both of these concerns: when is rugby NOT ridiculous and awkward?? "Half the time for the forwards your head is up someone's ass..." HAH!

Funny part: I attempted to find a picture of this tactic/do some more research, and when I googled "laying the egg rugby" THIS is what showed up:
What's even more hilarious is I actually just read about the history of this cartoon, which is from 1961.
It was created after the 3rd test match that went down between New Zealand and France. It's also the album cover for when the rugby game was recorded on vinyl record!
In this game, New Zealand beat France's hard to ever think of a time when New Zealand wasn't the favorite in rugby, but at this time period apparently France was considered the strongest European team. So the "egg" (which they clearly also made look like a rugby ball) is a little spitfire at France: "Top grade reputation - second grade performance" as in they didn't live up to everyone's standards (CLEARLY, 32-3 is an embarrassing loss for a favored team). THAT'S AWESOME.
Another fact about this cartoon: the All Blacks bird is actually a Kiwi, not a rooster. Kiwis are native to New Zealand and apparently many people who are native to Kiwi, New Zealand have called themselves Kiwis.

ANOTHER random fact I just found out through this hunger for knowledge is that this Marvel character, Kiwi Black, got his name based off the location of Kiwi and the All Blacks themselves!

So much respect.

NOTE: I found out all this interesting knowledge about the cartoon from this cool website:! Us rugby bloggers have to stick together.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I never thought about my thoughts....

At practices we have begun to move into attack (attacking the attack, if you will...) discussions and the variety of options presented to you when moving the ball. What was really pointed out was that while it is so heavily emphasized that when attacking you need to move the ball forward (still true) and run straight, it's crazy how many angles are actually involved. This fact is already present through running switches (when you catch a pop pass specifically from a very sharp angle) and other various strategies, however it can be overlooked that simply running at an angle on your own can be effective.
This was demonstrated well through thinking about how defenders line up and (generally) oppose an attacking team. Many times we find ourselves matching up with whomever is across from us and firing up straight in a flat line (obviously nothing is wrong with any of this but it is generally what happens). Here's a mini diagram to make it that obvious:
Pretty simple...makes sense and it's not that complicated to defend.

So anyways, when running at an angle on attack, then that COMPLETELY wipes out the whole matching up/staying in your zone or lane defensive tactic. The defense be like:

I picked up on it as a defender myself when we scrimmaged against each other - when someone ran at an angle it completely made me question whether or not I should be tackling her or someone else that is in her lane....or that other person who is now in her lane.....or that other other person now in her lane.....etc.
However, it's important to stress that this angle we practiced running at is 45 DEGREES - you are NOT running horizontally.

You're still moving forward!

When defending this, part of the solution to almost any problem in rugby is COMMUNICATION. So communicating who is making the tackle and who is in support is very important.
...I feel like the words communication and support appear in almost every single one of my posts.....not a coincidence..........

We also discussed many specifics about going into contact and offloading. Very similar to Indian sprints, we did a drill where in a single file line we ran laps around the field. We would rotate through these positions, but the person in the front of the line would run out a few steps and be a defender against the second person in line (not full on defense....just a wrap to get the ball carrier tangled up). The ball carrier would practice that quick pop pass right off the hip and with a flick of the wrists while the next person in line would burst onto the pop pass, running tightly off the ball carrier's hip. Then that person would start the drill all over again by placing the ball on the ground and becoming the next defender. We rotated through that for a little while and then tried to implement it into game play. While still playing a touch scrimmage, the rule was added that the ball carrier was granted a 2 second window of opportunity to pass the ball after being tagged. We were able to practice running onto the ball and getting quick pop passes off, however it's also clear that when you are put under pressure, you can be much more susceptible to making bad I did a few times. With everything around you going so freakin' fast, it can be really hard to slow your mind down and give yourself the time to think through a decision. Especially when you're in the process of going into contact yet you see a bunch of your teammates around you all wanting the ball at the same time, it just makes you feel like AGH!

Soo there were a few times where I attempted to offload the ball whilst in the middle of being tackled and FAILED MISERABLY. I was feeling pretty bummed about it and frustrated because my mind kept telling me "YOU KNOW BETTER! YOU KNOW THAT'S WRONG!"...but then my coach asked me to explain my thought process about where I go and what I do when I'm on attack, and then explain my decision making to someone else who was inquiring about things to do on attack.....

But once I took the time to actually pay attention to my thought process, I figured it out.
First of all: whenever setting up in a line for attack, my mind immediately gravitates to CINGULAR BARS. get it. If not YouTube the commercials.

I always try and figure out where I am in that progression based on how far away I am from the ball carrier and who is behind me. If I'm at the end of a line and there is not enough room for me to continue progressing deeper then I'm not going to keep backing up all the way into the try zone or out of bounds because clearly that's not logical. However, I will hesitate/stay active in that one spot right until that opportune moment comes where I am at the appropriate amount of depth for me to burst onto the ball.
It's a tough thing to time right, but in order to ensure you're running full speed onto a pass/offload from your teammate it helps to get your mind into that feeling of "OH SHIT I'M NOT GONNA MAKE IT!" except don't make the situation too much of a close call.
But sometimes you've just gotta filter yourself into the line; it's not always an option to go all the way to the end of the line either. Whenever I think the area surrounding the ball carrier looks way too crowded, I'll take a step back and find a gap that I can filter myself into so I can still be used as an asset in the upcoming cycles of play. I may not see any action or I may find myself with the ball sooner than expected, but stepping back from the action can sometimes be a pretty important thing to do or attacking teams can end up like this:

....however, that Scooby Doo crew looks like they could run a pretty supportive banger/crash ball...

Another reason why I was mentally kicking myself for making some ridiculous offload passes right before being fully tackled is because I personally have a golden rule that I constantly follow when I am running with the ball. Of course whenever anyone is running with the ball they are trying to gain meters and make it closer to scoring, but I am constantly thinking about getting to the ground with the ball safely presented towards my teammates (at the right time and place, of course. I'm not exactly thinking that if by some sort of miracle make it into a fast break).
Any type of pass or offload is an ADDED BONUS, and clearly scoring off a run is a legit bonus. But whenever I receive the ball I do not expect any of those things to happen. If I were to estimate, I would say anything besides going to ground and presenting the ball to my teammates happens only about 20% of the time when running. Of course it's fantastic if there is an opportunity to offload or score, but I'd say 8 times out of 10 I will not risk losing possession to achieve one of those things. They will come eventually as long as we are able to hold onto the ball, so that's really the simple goal of attack.....along with moving forward, of course.

So then there's also those times where you're sorta close to the ruck but there's already a bunch of people in there and everyone else is already lined up ready for attack and you are just STUCK in a crazy no man's land. Personally I'd look towards the ruck first since I love rucking and would selfishly check to see if there's a chance for me to enter. If it looks like we're teetering on losing, READY OR NOT HERE I COME. If it looks pretty stable then I will recycle to behind the attack line and either filter in where there's a discrepancy in the cingular bars or prepare to support the next round of ball carriers. If the ruck looks like we're going to lose possession (like there's no chance of salvation) then I will communicate that to the rest of the team and POST.

In the end, shit happens. All the time. LITERALLY, all the time in rugby. You and I are both going to throw some absolutely shitty passes...and I don't care if you are reading this before trying out for the All Blacks. We're all going to lose the ball at some point, or do something that literally makes us question how we are even smart enough to tie our laces.

But I think in order to be good at rugby, you have to be able to handle the times that you're bad and make mistakes, because IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN. As my coach touched on tonight at practice, you don't really learn anything unless you make mistakes. YOU HAVE TO! You don't become a great rugby player through miraculously doing everything right your first time around. You become a great rugby player through analyzing where you can improve or potentially try something different that will give you a better outcome next time. Rugby is all about being perfectly imperfect. Rugby doesn't want you to do everything right, otherwise it wouldn't be FUN! Part of the FUN in rugby is the crazy rollercoaster of shit hitting the fan and seeing how you and your teammates can handle it....that's all rugby really is! Of course there's a lot of strategy and tactic that occurs behind the scenes, but those are all basically so you can have a back pocket full of tools for when SHIT HAPPENS.
So HUZZAH! Embrace the wild and the unknown! Just fuck it and go with the flow, you'll figure it out! And GET YOUR ASS OUT ON THAT FIELD because there is no better tool in your pocket than practice and game experience itself.