BLAAAAH STARTED UP RUGBY PRACTICES AGAIN WITH NORTH SHORE WOMEN'S RUGBY!
**Ironically, there is also a North Shore Women's Rugby in Chicago, where I just moved back home from, and they get a lot of random accidental messages from people in the Midwest asking if they want to have a scrimmage ha ha. I am referring to the North Shore Women's Rugby in Massachusetts.
It's been a little while since I've had to acclimate myself to a brand new team, but I'm really lucky that I had my sister with me and already had some recent practice doing this with Stars Rugby in January. My sister and I were even talking about how sometimes it's tough walking onto a new team where everybody already knows each other because it's like introducing yourself to a group of best friends.
This team also has a pretty stellar reputation. They have beaten some awesome teams recently and made a pretty well known name for themselves. I played with them waaaaaay back in the day for about a month but fell out with them...not sure why. I was a freshman in college, still young...still naive....
I can already tell that I am aligned with this team's rugby philosophy because RIGHT OFF THE BAT we started with boat loads of running. The coach is phenomenal - knowledgeable, loud, curses like a sailor...everything I personally look for in a coach! One of the first things I remember him saying at the beginning of practice is
"CROSSFIT IS FUCKING GREAT. BUT IT'S NOT RUGBY SPECIFIC."
This is so freakin' true and I learned that the hard way in early spring. When I joined Crossfit, it seemed so hard in the beginning that I felt like there was no way I could incorporate anything else into my routine and that it would be enough to consider as a rugby training for the day. NOT THE CASE. The coach talked about how Crossfit sometimes neglects to give rugby players the amount of aerobic activity/running that is required. While I do believe that Crossfit DOES give you much more stamina and endurance to push through tough workouts, I have always been a firm believer that there is NO substitution for running whatsoever.
So I have also neglected to mention that through moving pretty much across the country and working insane hours at the same time (sometimes 20 hours in a row!), I HAVE BECOME COMPLETELY OUT OF SHAPE. I HAVE DONE NADA. ZIP. ZILCH. I'll give myself a little credit though for sometimes carrying over 40 pounds in cardboard boxes over a mile to the UPS store to ship home. That's about as close as I've gotten to a workout over the past MONTH.
Soooo when we began the practice with running, I was already like this:
IT WAS AWESOME AND TERRIBLE AT THE SAME TIME!!!!
The coach then talked about a term he called "Champagne Rugby." Both the mens and womens teams have recently been moving up in divisions; he talked about how in Division 3 they were able to move up simply through being faster and stronger than all the other teams. But when you start moving up to higher divisions and playing with more skilled people, you realize that now everyone is at your same level of speed and strength so you need to be able to throw something else at them. This is where the skill sets come in. I wouldn't even say it's necessarily throwing a perfect pass every time or always making your tackles, but more so the skills to know how to handle every situation when it arises on the field. I guess you could call that experience instead, but it definitely is also a skill of its own. Just that rugby knowledge is so vital, and why that website irbrugbyready.com is also super helpful in improving this (thanks South Buffalo Women's Rugby for introducing me to it!). The coach said that when you're able to get to a level where you're playing with people who have been in the game for YEARS and know what they're doing....THAT is "champagne rugby" because it's the BEST! It's also so crisp and smooth, and an amazing environment to spur growth and improvement. That's how I felt at the practice already! It was really cool practicing with both men and women from such a variety of ages and skill levels. With everything I heard and witnessed at practice already (...and after just ONE PRACTICE!) I'm already like:
"Rugby is a game of mistakes."
I need to remember that one for myself, because it's such great advice. I put too much pressure on myself to execute everything in a game exactly as it's supposed to go. But like I mentioned before, I think it's more about knowing how to pick yourself back up from a mistake and handle them when they arise (which is ALL THE TIME) rather than become defeated...ANOTHER REASON WHY RUGBY IS SO FRIGGIN AWESOME. I even noticed when we were doing passing lines that many extremely skilled and experienced players would let the ball bounce once before catching it if they thought it was a pass they couldn't catch in the air. What a simple but effective technique, since if you try to catch a pass that is risky then you run a high chance of just causing a knock on. So yeah, when I started doing all these skill drills with high level rugby players...
BUT THAT'S GREAT! I like being in an environment where I feel I can visually see what I need to improve (by being an underdog/SUCKING ha ha), and I especially appreciate it when all the players and coaches are very conducive to this type of environment. So they don't care if I'm terrible and allow me to grow instead of tearing me apart (hah). Because North Shore rugby possesses this quality (which I feel like a lot of club teams do), I completely threw myself into every drill without as much fear of messing up.
When we were doing passing lines, the coach also had another fantastic quote:
"RUN STRAIGHT, and I don't mean straight as in not on drugs!!!"
When we finished passing drills, we moved on to drills that worked on playing off of a kick. It primarily involves the fullback (I wish I stepped up to practice that spot because I really enjoyed it when I played it with South Buffalo Womens, but I was too shy!) but the coach described a new way of handling a kick return:
Many times when a team punts the ball to the other end of the field, all of us get caught watching the ball sail over our heads and do this:
We practiced this in a great drill, where someone on the team who kicks would blast a punt down to the fullback and two defenders would run after it. At the same time when the defenders start running, three offenders also start running from the other side of the field to get in support of the fullback. It's then pretty much a game of speedball, two against four, to simulate an overload and should basically end in a tri every time. It was also very important to keep following your pass afterwards and get back into support, or else you can take yourself out of the play pretty quickly and become ineffective.
So while ALL of these drills involved a lot of running, OF COURSE we ended the practice with insane amounts of sprints....maybe even more than the beginning. Every time we completed a round of sprints, the coach would ask "one more?" and then we'd do it again.
...he did this about three or four times.
And after all of that, my sister and I realized that PRACTICE ENDED EARLY. Holy smokes! I felt like we had gone an hour over from how much we packed into one practice.
Speaking of my sister, I'm so glad she was there with me and will be for all the other upcoming practices/tournaments this summer. We're pretty good at picking each other up, and I think we're both so awkward that we don't feel as awkward when with a large group of people we don't know well yet:
P.S. I deliberately had a disney theme going with the gifs - maybe this post could be used for little baby ruggers to understand how the game works ha ha.