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.