Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Mind Over Matter

Yesterday at  crossfit, I experienced a VERY interesting phenomena that's never really happened to me before...

Background: I am extremely hesitant with adding weight to workouts in any way, shape, or form. Especially when it  comes to WOD [Workout of the Day]'s, it's always difficult for me to know which weight I should do. The weight movements in WOD's are always compounded with additional movements [except if it's a "pump day" which isolates a specific weight lifting technique]. You need to strategize a little more since there's multiple factors to take into consideration.
....the point is....I always "play it safe"....VERY safe. I always aim for a lower weight to ensure I can do it and not fail. I have jokingly [and not jokingly] been told by crossfit coaches to add more weight to the bar for workouts, but it's definitely up to me and my confidence level more than anything. I just have an irrational fear of failure.

SO, yesterday at crossfit our WOD consisted of 21 reps-15 reps-9 reps of deadlifts and box jumps. From my chronic achilles issues that have been a major struggle for me since high school, BOX JUMPS ARE THE DEVIL. There are select few movements that I keep a high red flag radar on that amplify the difficulty of a workout for me, the ones that strain my achilles the most: box jumps, burpees, and jump roping in any way, shape or form.
Whenever these red flag movements show up in a WOD, I specifically scale back on the other movements a little more  than normal since the strain on my achilles is practically a handicap. At first I warmed up with a 95lb deadlift and thought "Okay...this is on the lighter side..." but I added some more weight to the point where I thought "Okay....this is a little heavier but still doable." In my mind I assumed I had added weight to get up to the 115lb mark, because in my mind everything else above that was WAY TOO HEAVY FOR ME AND TOO MUCH OF A STRETCH AND SHOULDN'T EVEN CONSIDER IT FOR A WORKOUT WITH 45 REPS.

I went through the workout, and yes it was a bitch. But it was a good bitch. I didn't injure myself or go out of my comfort zone, yet I didn't breeze through the workout either [not even close, hahaha].
...then as I was taking the weight off of my barbell, I thought "Wait a minute........lemme add up this weight again......"
...and that's when I realized I had TOTALLY miscounted - what I thought was 115lbs was actually 125lbs!!!!!! I had gone through the entire workout unknowingly with 10 extra pounds of weight, and what in my mind seemed like would've been CATASTROPHIC was actually completely doable....just because I was confident in myself  and felt good about it. And although 10 extra pounds isn't really a huge difference in weight, the significance behind doing a weight that I had completely ruled out of the question was a big deal to me.

And of course the weight itself isn't what I am or should be proud about - 125lbs to some people may seem like "HOLY SHIT THAT'S A LOT OF WEIGHT" but to tons of other people 125lbs seems like "PFFT THAT'S CHILD'S PLAY." That number is completely relative to the individual. If someone who thought they couldn't do more than 15lbs actually did 25lbs then that would be the exact same accomplishment.

In the end, the mind is a very powerful thing. You set your own standards of what you can or cannot do. I chose a weight based solely off how I felt warming up with it, rather than automatically putting myself in a category and saying "I can't do any more than this."

BUT a word of caution: especially when dealing with weights, TAKE DA BABY STEPS. I don't want anyone reading this [...if anyone actually DOES read it...] and then the next day saying "WELL I THINK I CAN DO 150lbs INSTEAD OF 100lbs SO IMMA DO IT." Definitely does NOT work that way. I have my crossfit coaches to thank a lot for my own progress. The right coaches/trainers KNOW WHAT THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT. If it's too much weight then it's too much weight. They'll tell you when to take a little jump and when to scale it back. Trust the process, they've been through it themselves!! And most of all, just trust that the longer you keep at it, the sooner you'll reach your goals :)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rainy Days

I just read a great quote about mental health, but obviously it has a universal meaning [and thus can be applied to rugby]:

"Sunshine all the time makes a desert."

desert sun raccoon super mario 3

What a simple but true statement.

cat desert mine3 puss in boots pib3

Without the hard times, the slumps, the setbacks, the rejections...nothing grows. YOU don't grow. "Rainy days" may seem like downers [and they literally are when practice gets fucking canceled from them], but they're food for the soul. They develop character, work ethic, motivation, and so much more.

...I have personally had a lot of rainy days over the past few months...more than normal.

A lot of different obstacles have entered my life inside and outside of rugby. I have experienced loss, rejection, deception, illness...and even been in a huge car accident. All of these things and more have had a major impact on my self esteem and my energy level - two big things you need in order to succeed in rugby....or anywhere else!

Directly after the season, my body COMPLETELY collapsed in the form of getting sick. And not just a cold or even the flu....I was in bed for the night by 4:30pm for three weeks. I have NEVER been that sick in my entire life, and being stagnant/practically lifeless for that amount of time made bouncing back to crossfit and rugby training that much harder.

Now, I kinda need to rebuild the blocks and start from the beginning. I have to rebuild my fitness, even rebuild my confidence. Even when it seems like nothing good has come out of your situation, you've gotta find a way to figure out how you've grown from the experience.

"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

...and all of this is MUCH easier said than done. It's really hard to pull yourself out of the dumps mentally or physically. You can easily get into a pattern of negative thinking and then never come out of it. You can easily say "I'll start tomorrow....I'll do it tomorrow....I can't do it because of ____, ____, and _____..."


The hardest part of creating change is STARTING. Whether it's rugby training, a nutrition plan, a new job, going back to school [I'm guilty of that one], or even just a new mindset, beginning and developing change is not only the hardest part but the part that deters people from changing the most.

If you're never faced with adversity, then in the end you're only hurting yourself. That doesn't mean go out of your way and make something bad happen [haha], but CHALLENGE YOURSELF. Get uncomfortable. Push your limits and boundaries. Don't be afraid of whether you can or cannot do it, even if you come up with a million excuses as to why you can't or shouldn't. Start with little goals and set a date to get them done by. Stick with it and establish discipline. Don't flip your life around to try and accomplish your goals, just start with baby steps.

The mind is a powerful thing. It can be your biggest blockade or it can be your biggest motivator....
.....you decide which it is.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


DISCLAIMER: Just to make sure that I'm as clear as possible and making the CORRECT points about the LFL....
  • To even try and say that these women are not athletes or non-athletic is just down right dumb....and obviously entirely wrong. First off, obviously they're in pretty damn good shape if they're able to maintain a flawless  physique while running around a football field in minimal clothing (nobody gets a six pack by sitting on the couch). When you look at some clips from the LFL, they clearly hit hard and run fast. GOOD LUCK facing any of these ladies in a race or arm wrestling match...
  • It's also dumb to assume that these women play just to show off their bodies. They really seem to love football, work hard at it, and are good at it. As a fellow gal who plays a physical sport, it's FUN and even therapeutic. Many women in the LFL attest to how playing football is a great outlet. 
  • I give these girls a salute and a pat on the back for continuing to be badasses in the sport. I don't view them as prissy or silly or whatever negative connotation you can come up with. They're athletes, they're also beautiful women, end of story. 




WHYYYYYYY DON'T THESE WOMEN PLAY IN THE IWFL [Independent Women's Football League]. 

I mean, you do you, but just the fact that there is a whole organization that takes athletic women and makes them play a sport where the uniform requires clothing that fully exposes you and also makes no damn sense is BEYOND annoying. 


In this article which quotes a few LFL players, one player even says that after having played the sport for a few years she would prefer to play in a sports bra and spandex....even THAT makes more sense than what they currently have to play in.  

But another quote made in the article by a LFL player absolutely infuriated me. She made a statement about how she loves being able to go "absolutely crazy" on the field and let loose. HOWEVER, she follows it with saying "There's not really another place that a woman's allowed to do that."


I looked at some of the Facebook comments to see other people's reactions and opinions to this league. They ranged all over the place, for and against the league, their uniforms, etc. but this comment concerned me the most: 
"There is so little  opportunity for female athletes who lead real lives and just want to continue to excel in a competitive team sport"

"...they probably say, alright, if I have to wear a bikini to get to play this game, I'll do it"


I know from personal experience and through general spread knowledge that Chicago [that's where the player was from who said that quote] hosts MULTIPLE women's rugby teams that are EXTREMELY competitive. The Midwest in general is quite a hub for rugby. To say that there are virtually no other places for women to be aggressive, play with a team, and utilize their athleticism is just...wrong....SO WRONG!

While you can make the argument that the focus is on women athletes and not their appearance, clearly some of the practices of the league as described by a player are completely unnecessary and ridiculous. Some pregame rituals the players have to go through consist of hair, make up, and routine spray tans. Another player talks in an article about how when she broke her face [LITERALLY, broke her face], her coach focused on how she "still looked beautiful." Does that REALLY matter if your damn face is broken?! 
And why the heck do these women HAVE to go through hair, make up, and tanning in order to be considered beautiful?? Every day I marvel at how pretty AND strong all my teammates, all women's rugby players, and all women athletes are all over the world: 

And I'm sure that there are plenty of women athletes who have their own pregame rituals of hair, makeup, and maybe even tanning [I mean, even I do some minimal hair/makeup before games!]...do whatever makes yeh feel good before a game. But the big difference is that it's a PERSONAL PREFERENCE, not a requirement.

I guess I don't wanna rag too much on the LFL more than I want to appreciate and promote the other opportunities out there for women to engage in competitive, physical sports. Fans, players, coaches, and even game commentators have said it once and will say it again - women's rugby is the exact same as men's rugby. Same rules, same dimensions, same ball, same level of physical contact. The IWFL also uses the same rules as the NFL! If these women's sports are the same [or at least similar] levels of athleticism, commitment, and dedication as the LFL....then why is one getting so much more hype and publicity than the others?? 

And in the end, one of the BEST parts about women's rugby [and I'm sure this is true in the IWFL and LFL] is that your teammates are as close to you, if not closer, than your family. The camaraderie and bonding that goes on cannot be replicated in any other setting. The amount of trust and support that you put in your teammates is unreal. And especially in rugby, the same goes for the opposition - even if you're ready to tear someone's face off in a game, it's miraculous how you can be sharing a beer and a laugh with them afterwards. While the opposing team can CERTAINLY piss you off....rugby players control and harness their anger so fist fights and unnecessary cheap shots like these don't happen:

Moral of the story: women's sports that are just as hard and aggressive as men's exist in multiple forms. Appreciate the women athletes of the LFL, IWFL, women's rugby, and all other sports the same as you would to the male counterparts. Do what you love, love what you do.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Success in the eyes of the beholder....

Interesting video:

Take note from this:

What would you rate as YOUR level of success?

Everyone can be their toughest critic, especially when it comes to rugby. We all make mistakes, rugby is practically a game of mistakes and how you handle them. That one dropped pass or missed tackle can make you feel like a real bonehead on the field sometimes.

But making a mistake doesn't make you a bad player or a bad teammate. From that one seemingly ginormous mistake, you may overlook the 20 things you did GREAT right beforehand. And your teammates love you and appreciate your unique strengths, it's part of the beauty of the sport of rugby and the people who play it. But at the same time, remember to give your teammates a pat on the back once in a while, especially the ones that you know beat themselves up more than they should. Let them know they're appreciated members of your awesome team, and that you trust them and support them. Everyone's important and vital, nobody is a more "valuable" player than the other. But make sure all your teammates know that! Everyone needs a pick me up sometimes.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pat's WOD

"There's only one rule today: no complaining."

On that Saturday when I showed up to crossfit, up until that moment complaining was all I had been doing the entire morning [hahaha]: "UGH, I don't wanna go today...I'm really tired....I'm still sore from Friday's WOD....I don't even know how to do handstand walk, not even close....do I even have any clean clothes to wear to crossfit?....I NEVER get to sleep in...."

But when one of my crossfit coaches said that to all of us in the Saturday morning workout group, I immediately perked up...because I knew that although I hadn't said anything out loud, I was bitchin' the loudest on the inside. He then explained himself. There was NO complaining allowed because this workout had a very special meaning behind it. The WOD was created by an inspiring crossfit figure named Pat Padgett. I vaguely remembered him being mentioned for a fundraiser last year. However, at the time where I needed it the most, his story really came in the clutch for me.

Pat is a charismatic guy, friends with the whole wide world, who has done crossfit in Southie and all over the area. I've never even met him, but just from the way that my crossfit coach adamantly described him, this person is genuinely special. He's the type of guy that is instantly your friend, no matter who you are or where you came from. He immediately makes you feel welcome and at home, probably has you cracking a smile or a laugh within seconds of talking with him.

....and then it's amazing people like this that make you wonder why on Earth such a terrible, terrible thing could ever happen to them. Where's the karmic reward? Why do bad things happen to good people who are so loved and appreciated by everyone around them? WHY?! There's just no explaining it. It's something that happens every day. Bad things happen to good people.

But from many of the inspirational stories I've heard of these people, including Pat, they rise to the occasion instead of falling into the darkness. Although they may be experiencing hell, their hope and their drive to just live life to the fullest never fails. You can even hear it in Pat's blog post from about a month ago!
I don't think I can ever imagine how crushing it feels to believe you're so close to the finish line, so close to recovery....to then find out that the cancer has returned and it's not going anywhere. The ability to STILL hold your head high after that and want to live your life doing everything that makes you and your loved ones happy is nothing short of a gift.

....so the next time you don't feel like getting out of bed or feel "too tired" to go to rugby practice/conditioning.....

Take a step back. Remember that you're LUCKY that you have the capability and privilege to play this sport and do something that not only makes you happy but also makes you feel good [most of the time........]. There will come a day where you wish you could rewind to the time you didn't feel like going to practice and SLAP YOURSELF SILLY to make you go. I can't imagine not playing rugby in my life, but I know that at SOME point there will come a time where I will have to retire from my rugby career. I hope that time is VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY far away, but I know in the end it's eventually going to happen. And it'll happen for everyone! So for now, give it your 110% and love every millisecond of it.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Meeting Ric Suggitt

In a continuation of the previous post, I want to capture quickly the brief moment that I got to talk with Ric Suggitt 1 on 1 at the tail end of our rugby tournament in Glendale, CO. Although it's a small story, it's a very significant one in my life that I believe may have some hidden lessons in there somewhere :-D

When we all entered the Denver 7s Rugby Tournament, all the players at the USA Rugby Academy were placed onto 4 different teams to ensure that everyone got equal playing time [obviously 9 people on a team will get more playing time than 40 people on a team!]. All of the coaches from throughout the week [Emilie, Mac, Richie, and Ric] watched the games from afar and made it explicitly known that they were NOT planning on interfering, simply spectating. We were allowed to approach them with questions about specific game scenarios throughout the day, but weren't allowed to ask "How am I doing?" or vague general questions of that manner.

Ric Suggitt especially made it clear the night before that he would not be doing any coaching or participating in the tournament, he was simply there to watch. Even throughout the day, I was able to easily find all the other coaches and approach them with my game questions....but Ric was like a real life case of Where's Waldo.

He was always kinda in the shadows, behind a telephone pole, pretty removed from the scene in general. I didn't really see him much on the sidelines front and center with the rest of the spectators and coaches. He did a pretty darn good job of hanging in the background and not being easily found.

The day of the Denver 7's tournament was BRUTALLY hot. Everyone was getting burned out. The heat paired with injuries and less oxygen was a huge strain on all the players. Sometimes, it was hard to get a lineup together by the end of the day.

But I'm happy and lucky that I was able to play in every minute of every game. The mental piece can take you so freakin far in rugby. I was ready to collapse, but I knew I would have all the time in the world after the tournament for rest. When else would I get the opportunity to play in front of such a respectable crowd, and receive constructive feedback for it?! So I busted my ass tenfold in all of those games, even if heat exhaustion felt like the real deal in between games. There is an amazing phenomena just short of a miracle in rugby that just makes all the pain go away for me. I'm enjoying myself so much, and my adrenaline is so high, that sometimes I wish I could be out there forever.
And it wasn't just me playing that made the games in the tournament so enjoyable. All of my teammates that were placed on the same team as me were so incredibly positive. We always had something great to say about each other, whether we lost a game by a few points or a landslide. We picked each other back up after mistakes. Our captain [Captain Jack, haha!] was one of the most selfless people I have ever met. While she was a participant at the camp just like us, and loved playing just as much as we all did, many times she sat herself out "so that the coaches could have a good look at us playing." She tried so hard to set us up in the best possible scenarios and positions to be seen in a good light and playing at our best. Her main goal of that day was solely based on everyone else's well being - making sure we were doing okay, reminding us to stay hydrated, etc. One of the greatest and most positive leaders on and off the field!

I know that many times in sevens there are breakaways made by the attacking team that pretty much guarantee a score, there's no stopping them. I've seen teams before tell players to take their foot off the gas and slow down since it's a give. Even if this is a tactic to conserve energy on both the attacking and defensive sides, I just can't sit with it. I don't care if it's viewed as wasting energy, I WILL CHASE DOWN THAT PLAYER UNTIL THEY FIRMLY TOUCH THE BALL DOWN IN THE TRY ZONE. I will give 100% until the play is ruled over. I will never forget this play by Ben Watson, easily one of my favorite sports moments of all time:
I CONSTANTLY remember this moment in my head whenever it seems like all hope is lost. And if you watch the whole video above, Ben Watson says it perfectly: stuff like that doesn't really require talent...it requires EFFORT. 

So anyways, I had about a dozen of those Ben Watson-esque chase downs.....except all of them resulted in a try [haha]. I ran as fast as I possibly could to catch up to that person breaking away for the try zone - sometimes I caught up to them, and sometimes I wasn't even close. Either way, there were a few times where people came up to me after the game and said "Holy shit dude.....seeing you chasing me down the field was petrifying."
Even instilling that fear in the opposition, letting them know that there aren't any freebies in this game and they have to earn every damn meter they gain, is a huge win in itself. When you hustle out every last step, you force the other team to do the same. They can't let up for a second. When you play like that for the whole game, then it's almost inevitable that the team who puts in more effort will come out on top. 

After all this friggin' chasing, from game one to the final game, I even had a breakaway in the last game where karma sort of caught up to me! I broke free of the defensive line, dead tired, and made it down to about the 5 meter line before I was pummeled by two defensive players jumping on my back. Side note: it was SO FRUSTRATING and propels me forward to keep doing sprints, no matter how much I hate them, because dat sucked. After the play was over, I  already knew that I could've avoided that ending if I had made a cut back in, a quick side step, or even just a little form of hesitation to throw off the defense. I was just bolting in a straight line, which made me an easy target for the defense to zone in on and tackle.

When all was said and done at the end of our final game, I walked off with my head high amongst my teammates even though we had lost, because everyone put all they had on the line to finish on a high note. I knew I had given every ounce of effort I had [and I'm sure everyone else could tell too - I  was a hot mess....my hair was all over the place, I was sweating like a pig, and I looked like a tomato]. Emilie and Ric came up to me and congratulated me on a great game - "You played so well!" That's all you can really ask for to hear from a coach, when they confirm you did a great job and truly mean it.

I stood on the sidelines smiling, watching some other Atavus teams play. I was happy that I just got in so much valuable game experience with some great players and great competition. I was sitting on cloud nine, already pumped for when the next time would be that I would get to step back on the field.

In my own personal bubble of happiness and excitement, I didn't even notice Ric Suggitt walk up next to me.

He broke his own rule.

He stood next to me and said calmly, "You like to run, eh?"

I practically had a heart attack. It was like having Bill Belichick walk up to me. But I didn't want to appear starstruck, so I just blurted out with a goofy smile on my face, "Oh yeah! There are no freebies in rugby!"
He laughed, and then gave me a GREAT piece of affirming advice:
"Keep on runnin'....that's the most fun part. And it makes everybody else tired."

YES! THERE IT IS! THE USA RUGBY COACH HAD THE SAME THOUGHT PROCESS I DID! I couldn't believe it! If I don't get any farther in my rugby career ever, I will be happy remembering that moment - because clearly he recognized my effort and how valuable hard work is.

He continued on by saying, "I thought you had that try there near the end....but there's not much more you can do with two girls on yeh."
I agreed with him, and commented how I knew right away that I should've attempted to be a little more evasive while running for that try.
He gave me another piece of advice that's once again so simple yet a great visual to use:
"You know, I always tell the girls [on the USA team] this: when you're runnin' with the ball, run like the Germans are shootin' at yeh." And he made some movements with his hands to demonstrate running at angles and changing directions, as if you're making yourself a difficult target for someone to hit. I LOVE THAT!

I then pointed over to my Rudy autobiography sitting next to my rugby gear, and said "I really appreciated the Rudy clip you showed last night. Rudy is one of my greatest inspirations."

Ric saw my book, smiled, and said "Oh you're a Rudy fan, eh? Well if you like him then you'll also like Reggie Ho. Have you heard of the 30 for 30 series? [I HAVE AND I LOVE THEM] There's a great one on Reggie Ho, another Notre Dame guy. And another great one is about Bill Parcells - a real tear jerker! I think you'll like 'em both, check 'em out sometime."

I scribbled down the names immediately, PUMPED for some more inspiration to research and pumped over the inspiration that was happening for me right there! Later on when we were all leaving for the airport, Ric said to me in passing "Good to see yeh again, keep on runnin'." Just to solidify the already incredible day I had.

...well I'm lucky that I had such a fun and successful day, because when I got to the Denver airport I found out that United Airlines wasn't checking in passengers anymore [45 minutes in advance with no lines in security?!?!!]...so I had missed my flight and was stuck at the Denver airport until the following day. It's safe to say that was a real BUMMER AND A HALF. I had to stay in the airport overnight still in my rugby shorts [went to the airport straight from the field], no shower, and covered in sweat and soot from playing hours of rugby on a hot and humid summer day. I also had to sleep on the hard airport floor............WORST BACK PAIN EVAH.

However, at one point when I was about to actually lose my mind, I pulled out my rugby notebook and looked over the names I had scribbled down from Ric's suggestions for more inspiration. I grabbed my little tablet and looked them up...the 30 for 30 videos were right there in the top Google searches!

I watched them both and they were just as great as Ric had described. I'm so glad he referred  me to them, because before that I had never even heard the names whispered....yet they are both pretty phenomenal people.

Reggie Ho: watch the video here
Teensy little guy with not much natural athletic ability who wants to play for one of the greatest college football programs in the country [...sound familiar?]. Just add on top of that HE'S IN MED SCHOOL. What I found so fascinating about Reggie Ho's story is how he combined physical and mental efforts to develop talent and make it onto the Notre Dame team as a kicker. He didn't know SQUAT about kicking! But he researched and took notes on all the different aspects of the skill - even what geometry is behind it - so that he could fully understand what goes into developing kicking skills. He also never made excuses for not practicing. No field? No problem, let's just practice kicking in a parking lot! He also made some pretty clutch kicks for Notre Dame in some big games!

Bill Parcells/John Tuggel: 

You think you have excuses with being tired, having a demanding job, or carrying a lot on your plate? Try playing in the NFL and being diagnosed with cancer. Holy cannoli. But what stands out the most to me is how his attitude NEVER CHANGES throughout that entire video. Even though his health is rapidly dwindling, and things are getting harder and harder for him, he never seems to fade as a person. And he still gave his 110% throughout it all even though he was just considered a "Lowesman Trophy" [the last pick in the NFL]. He wasn't a star or winning MVP or gaining any fame or glory - he was doing it because he LOVED it. You HAVE to love it in order to be able to put in that level of effort and hard work under that amount of stress. Ric said that a lot too - "No excuses! No excuses!" Don't excuse yourself and you'll never lose your effort.

So anyways, I wrote Ric a letter saying thanks for the great referrals and what I thought of each of them. I hope he gets it, but either way I'm grateful for what was so huge to me and probably so little to him. Baby steps. Take your little gains and moments of appreciation when you get them. And always look for more ways to grow :)

Lessons from Ric Suggitt

Going a little backwards here with my debrief of my time with Atavus in Denver, CO last week.....
I'm starting with the end.

There's a lot to be learned from Ric Suggitt, head coach of the USA Women's 7s team. What a motivational human being. I'm very lucky to have been able to hear him speak and spend some time with him!

He came to us late on Friday night [our last night of training], fresh off a plane. But his energy and enthusiasm didn't show what exhaustion he was probably feeling underneath. Talk about a busy guy! Right after spending the end of camp with us he flew out to Canada for the Super Sevens tournament. Air travel and being in different time zones is NOT an easy task.

 The majority of the notes that I took during Ric Suggitt's talk are direct quotes, because he nails so many things right on the head. I paired them with photos from the trip, so I can always remember to apply them to my rugby career and associate them with with positive rugby memories.

The USA Rugby team categorizes the talent they look for into four different categories:
Game Play

Ric said that you can teach anyone fitness, fundamentals, and game play, but you CAN'T teach anyone an attitude. That comes from yourself, and no one else.  And if you have a positive attitude, then you'll be able to go so much farther in the other categories! That's basically where it all starts and ends.
A montage of movie clips was shown to depict the different things that make a good attitude:
Be explosive.
Face your fears.
Don't waste your talent.
Over Achieve.
HEART! It's your heart, play with it.
Play smart.
Play with Passion.
I haven't mentioned this yet, but every single morning and evening I had been reading Rudy Reuttiger's autobiography. By far the most inspirational book I have ever read. I marked down different pages and starred different paragraphs on passages that were specifically motivating - I felt like I was marking down every other page! 
....anyways, one of the movie clips that Ric showed that night was from the movie Rudy. I straight up cried.
Some of the girls who had seen me carrying the book around and reading it said to me after, "Hey! Your guy Rudy was up there!" The next day, Emilie Bydwell also came up to me and said "Hey! Did you see Rudy shown last night?!" 
I cannot think of a better human being to be associated with.

Related to the importance of attitude in an athlete, when you're looking at doing ANYTHING in a positive light you're going to do it better. It's science.
Even when you're conquering fears, doing it with a smile on your face makes everything that much easier. Especially in rugby, any player or coach can attest to the importance of being able to conquer your fears. You can't go in for a tackle with fear in your eyes, or you're going to get knocked on your ass and/or injured. When you're able to work on your fears, you gain confidence and technique. FEAR more than anything can be detrimental to someone's rugby abilities. I have wondered why some people are so naturally good at rugby without seemingly putting any work into it nor doing any conditioning for it.....although everyone needs hard work in order to make it far in rugby, confidence alone can also make you improve in leaps and bounds. 
And it can even be a fake-it-until-you-make-it scenario: even if you're afraid or nervous [it's natural], PUT A SMILE ON YOUR FACE AND COME DO YOUR JOB. I am my toughest critic, by far. It can be hard for me to fight my own inner negativity because I strive for perfection and the best I can do. But just having a quick reality check by putting a smile on my face does wonders. It reminds me WHY I put so much time and effort into this sport, because in the end it makes me happy. And NOTHING can touch that. 

This is a great phrase to help keep that smile on your face: it reminds you to FREAKIN' HAVE FUN. ENJOY YOURSELF. RUGBY IS A F-U-N SPORT. Unfortunately it's not like golf or tennis or bowling, sports that you can physically do for almost eternal periods of time. Unfortunately....
UGH....I can barely get it out....
We will all get to an age where we can't play rugby anymore.
So every damn millisecond that you get on that field is a blessing and a privilege. Even if you feel tired from work or the pressures of life and "don't feel like" dragging your butt to practice, DO IT BECAUSE IT'S FUN. Someday, you're gonna wish more than anything in the world you could go back in time and have just one more rugby practice, or just one more minute on the pitch. I know I will. 
**let the sappy tearz begin.**

Although it's such a simple sentence, this can be digested in so many ways. Putting intention behind your actions, and thinking before doing, goes a long way. This can be implemented into many different contexts. 
For example, I have been struggling to increase my speed - I have been trying to go for runs and time them to see if I can get my average mile down, however in sprints I still seemed to burn out immediately. 
But when I approached my crossfit coaches asking for help on specifically speed, they pointed me in a whole different direction. I was doing the completely wrong workouts, and my sprinting ability lied asleep the whole time. They introduced me to the concept of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, something I had never heard of before. But learning the difference between the two was what made me learn how blind I've been to real speed workouts! 
Fast twitch muscle fibers specifically give you a major boost for a short period of time, hence why they are useful for sprints. They're also useful for sprints because they can activate and fire off energy at the drop of a hat. But while they're able to give you that initial boost immediately, they also tend to burn out quicker. 
Slow twitch muscle fibers are more concerned with efficiency rather than power. They fire more slowly so they can convert oxygen into fuel for a longer period of time, hence why they are good for long distances. They last longer but they're not stronger. 
The muscle fiber types we possess are primarily left up to genetics; and the amount of a certain type of fiber you're born with has been proven to influence what type of sports you play. A sports medicine study showed that sprinters possess 80% fast twitch fibers and marathon runners possess 80% slow twitch fibers. It's still up to discretion whether or not training can change your fiber types, typical nature vs. nurture argument.
HOWEVER, me trying to go on long distance runs just to see if I can increase my mile time does NOTHING for sprints. I'm just activating my slow twitch muscle fibers over and over again and strengthening them instead of activating my fast twitch fibers! 
So moral of the story: I need to start doing more workouts with the undivided INTENTION of increasing speed. Quality over quantity. Specifically do sprints that I only exert myself on during the actual sprint. It's a beehotch, but it works. Over the past weekend I scored two breakaway tries in one of our sevens tournaments, and I've only scored like 4 tries in my whole life period!
....don't tell my club team, or else I'll have to shoot the boot (none of them have realized yet that it's the first time I've scored on this team). This will be a funny test to see if anyone on my team actually reads this ;)
Another way that Ric taught us a lesson about intention was through "selective attention tests" that you can find all over youtube: 
These can apply to rugby in many ways; if you're running with the ball and only looking at the defender in front of you, then you may miss out on gaps that are wide, or a potential overload that's occurring, or a number of other options you may have. That's one of the beautiful things about rugby - you need to be able to look a few steps ahead sometimes rather than just what you're currently presented with.

I have NEVER seen it more present in any other sport than I have in rugby. 
If you put the time in, if you never give up, then you WILL be rewarded and see the results. 
It may not be right away, but as long as you keep at it then you'll see your hard work pay off. There are absolutely NO SHORTCUTS in rugby. The best players give it 110% every day. They also treat their fellow teammates the way they would want to be treated, that's what makes rugby players in general some of the greatest people you'll ever meet! You can't work alone, so you better get along with the people that you need to lend you a helping hand and support you on a breakaway!

Friday, June 12, 2015




I'm not even sure where to begin.
Well, obviously a good place to start is with our very own Georgia Page:

It is just BEYOND awesome that this video has gone viral:

I've already watched it a countless amount of times just to keep replaying the tackle form Georgia has on her second hit - textbook status!
...oh, and let's just add in that it's textbook status with a broken nose.

But at the same time it is beyond NOT awesome that the world had to witness this awesomeness second hand, through the internet instead of in a live game on TV. It goes to show how unaware and obtuse the public eye is to women's rugby, and/or the sport of rugby in general. If you watch the rest of the game, after Georgia breaks her nose, she makes that hit and things continue on as normal! It's not for another few minutes that she's even taken off the field for a blood sub, and when she's subbed out it's literally treated like everyday normal life. La dee dah, broken nose, life goes on.
A countless amount of women's ruggers, including Georgia, endure a myriad of scrapes, bruises, and breaks that we all see as "part of the job." As almost any rugby player can testify to - when you're in a game situation (especially at a high intensity/competitive level), adrenaline trumps any other sensation your body goes through. Fatigue, pain, sickness, exhaustion......all other feelings are GONE.
 Along with adrenaline comes TEAMWORK. Rugby truly is the ultimate team sport, you're constantly thinking of your teammates rather than yourself as an individual. As Georgia has said in many different interviews, when she was still playing with a broken nose, all she could think about was helping her team. That's part of what makes Georgia such a great player. That's how all successful rugby players think, and really it's the only way anyone can succeed in rugby at all! If you're not thinking about your team, and doing your part to be a supportive teammate and work as one unit......

Georgia's famous rugby clip is a glimmer and shining example of the beauty, power, strength, and excitement that is women's rugby. Women's rugby games are battles upon battles among TONS of rugby goddesses!

If you enjoyed watching Georgia's gnarly broken nose, tackle, and ruck...if you appreciate her hard work and are inspired by that tenacity...WATCH THE WHOLE DAMN GAME. RIGHT HERE:

The commentators say it perfectly in this video at about the 4-minute mark:
"A lot of people ask about the rules of women's rugby...and they're the EXACT SAME as the men's...and women play for the EXACT SAME reason that the men do - make no mistake, these girls are out there because they love to hit, they love the contact, they love the free flowing nature of sevens, and most of all they like to have these life long friends that they'll make by being a part of this team. That's one of the great things in terms of the rules, you don't see that a lot in a lot of different sports in the men's and women's sides how many variations there are... Here they are the EXACT SAME."

It's a CLOSE game with a ton of mighty tackles, stiff arms, and speed all around. And BOTH teams show mutual respect and sportsmanship towards each other....laying each other out then helping each other back up.

And Stars teammate Amanda Divich set the field ablaze with two breakaway tries! While also continuing to have a strong leadership role on the field per usual

I'm proud and honored that I know and have had the privilege to play with so many strong and powerful women on the rugby field. My network of these inspiring women grows almost every day. I hope that spectators and participants in women's athletics continues to grow as well, which is why after you watch the exciting Lindenwood/Notre Dame match you need to go sign this petition called #HerRugbyCounts, because all of these women deserve to be seen and recognized for their strength.


Monday, May 11, 2015

#MotivationMonday: My Application to USA Rugby Academy

 Enough said.

...but as we all know I can always say more :)

Take Ron Swanson's and my own advice - DO WHAT YOU WANT. Stop thinking about the if's, and's, or but's. Just freakin' do it. If you love something more than life itself, why wouldn't you aim to go as far as you can go with it? The worst that can happen is someone says no, and then you just try again. Don't be afraid of rejection. It's no harm done. Keep getting rejected until you get accepted, you'll learn something new every time you do! And even if you never make it to your end goal, just enjoy the freakin' ride. If you love what you're aiming for then the road to the top will be just as fulfilling and fun as someday getting there.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

#MotivationMonday: Shauna Gorham

Because of the big weekend this rugby gal had in Beast of the East, I was inspired to start doing write ups of inspirational player stories and different types of motivation throughout the week (see the post under this one for details). 

This gal is my sister: SHAUNA GORHAM!

She's just wrapping up her Sophomore year at UMass Amherst. She started playing rugby when she started college. UMass Amherst is a Division I team, aka it's really freakin' tough to see ANY playing time on the field! 
Just like the majority of rugby players beginning their career, she waited a long time before earning a spot on the A-side squad. She worked hard and earned a starting position as a prop and second row. She kept her starting position on A-side going for a long time. However, she experienced quite a rejection when in her second year of college rugby, more competition arrived and she was once again seated on the sideline.

It can be very difficult to taste the sweet success of playing A-side then have it taken away from you, especially if it's someone younger than you or who hasn't been playing as long. It hurts even more when you're working your toosh off, thinking you're doing EVERYTHING in your willpower to get into the starting line up, and you're rejected again. It can be hurtful in so many ways!
Everyone who has talked about my sister and how she plays has said "MAN, she could STEAM ROLL over people, just PLOW through them." But it's unbelievable how many people have said that about her, yet she's never personally returned the compliment to herself. She doesn't always see what everyone else sees in her, and that happens to a lot of people. Many people don't even realize their own potential, because they've either been rejected or in some other form have been told they're "not good enough."
But hard work never fails.

Shauna felt the pain of being sidelined a few times then said to herself ENOUGH'S ENOUGH! She's run through shin splints (not promoting that, don't do that!.....have harassed her before about not doing enough rehab to herself!) and made her way to the gym between finals and mountains of calculus problems. She calls me all the time and we talk rugby together like sports radio. She's learned to accept and embrace herself, causing her to see her strengths rather than her weaknesses. She's told me before "my pants are too small!" and said it with a sense of pride, because she knows she's building muscle and confidence at the same time. She'll call me after a rugby practice and say "I think I did a good job tackling today.....we did better with line outs....our scrums are looking good..." mainly all positive statements, which as mentioned before has been a struggle for her in the past (it's a Gorham gal cliche...we're our own toughest critics).
Now, in this past weekend, she started and played throughout the majority (maybe entirety?) of the big college rugby tournament Beast of the East. She played against teams that UMass Amherst was crushed by in a different game yet were able to turn around and beat them, all the way up to the semifinals. She scored a try (her first maybe?) and also won the Mad Dog award/Maid of the Match/Bitch of the Pitch at the social at the end of the tournament.