Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Football hits harder but rugby hits MORE."

VERY interesting video about rugby tackling and football tackling. I was personally quite surprised to discover that a football hit has more impact than a rugby hit because of the football padding in between bodies, but now it makes more sense. I did some extra research and found some other interesting points:

  • In regards to the football padding, "...because they have such extensive protection many players (consciously or subconsciously) have less regard for their, and other's, safety (Quora)." It's also mentioned in the study done in the video above. Football players can develop a "psychological armor" because they are so fully padded. This has driven me NUTS while watching the NFL - so many players think of themselves like this:


  • Going off of the extra confidence from the padding, this also creates different styles of tackling in football and rugby. Any rugby player can attest to the absolute intricacy put into learning how to tackle and practicing tackling. It is broken down starting from the initial positioning and ending with the follow through of the blow. In a study done at Boston University about brain injuries in football players, a lot of brain damage was due to the football tackling style. "They butt the opposition and their head is the tip of a missile, with an enormous amount of body weight behind them (The Guardian)." However, although football tackling is more susceptible to brain injuries, rugby tackling is more susceptible to spinal and rib injuries. It's explained pretty well in the video - rugby's tackles target one area and put all their force into that one spot. Football padding does do a better job of dispersing the impact over a wider area to avoid breaking a rib.

I wonder if Brad Pitt cracked any ribs from that tackle! ***SIDE NOTE: This picture reminds me of the amazing tackles made by the USA 7s security guards in Las Vegas and still makes me chuckle. 

  • It even comes down to the game rules that make a difference in tackling. Another interesting point is noting the difference between stoppage in rugby and football. Since play is generally not stopped and not over when a tackle is made, there are other priorities on the brain of the tackler. Sometimes rugby tactic asks you to trip someone up, hold them up, pressure them to make a mistake, and/or just slow them down in some way rather than just blindly hitting them. But in football, since play generally is stopped after a tackle, there is one thing and one thing only on the tackler's mind: HIT DAT BITCH. He or she can concentrate 100% body and mind on that tackle. 

Anyways, what I've gathered is that hitting people is risky. period. get over it. Whether it's rugby or football, there's a chance of injury. And in both sports, FITNESS is the best protection. So do yo' laps people.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


From my impatience and dreams of grandeur, I think I find myself expecting to make major leaps in my rugby playing when I truly need to remain patient in my progress. For many aspects of rugby, the number one ingredient it takes to develop them is time.

Simply wishing for it and wanting to get better obviously isn’t enough. Studying the game and practicing these skills will also help along the way, but won’t get me to that next level. In the end, there is no substitution for experience.

Because experience is so valuable and irreplaceable, that is also why it’s so important to practice how you play and make drills as close to the game time experience as possible. Being able to perform the same quality of skills under pressure and with fatigue almost cannot be taught. Fitness can be a huge help in both of these categories since maintaining a clear head with rational decision making becomes tougher when you’re tired. Knowledge of the game itself can also come in handy so you basically have a google search of options ready to go in your back pocket at all times.

But since there is still NO substitution for experience, it makes me all the more grateful that I have the opportunity once again to play at a competitive level with Stars Rugby and North Shore Women’s Rugby. Both teams provide me with opportunities to learn every single day, and no matter who I’m with I just need to keep on playing-playing-playing-PLAYING. Every practice, game, training camp, skills session, or workout is a HUGE opportunity missed to climb another step on the ladder of progress. That’s why if I REALLY want to go far, then those things HAVE to take priority over all whenever possible. It takes a lot of sacrifices, but none would be as big of a sacrifice as losing the chance at doing what I love best.

SO ANYWAYS, I’m having some struggles with things I specifically need to focus on improving in game play where they are put to the test the most. It takes a lot of simply being able to handle pressure and make the right decisions at the right time.

  • Hesitation right before passing – when running in the back line and getting ready to pass to my teammate, I have a really bad habit of almost completely stopping in my tracks before sending off a pass. While I believe this is part of my brain assuring me that I am going to make an accurate and effective pass, I completely telegraph what I’m going to do and where the ball is going. Not only do I take myself completely out of the play, but I also set up my teammate for failure because the defense will pounce on her like white on rice! I know that communication from my teammates and with my teammates will help alleviate this, but trust will also be a huge factor. I need to have confidence that whoever I pass to is going to be there at the right time to receive it and not need so much reassurance that I am doing the right thing. At practices we've also worked on having your head on a swivel – it’s important to be assessing the defense in front of you and determining what you think their next move will be…are they cheating a little towards the rest of the line and leaving a gap or an opportunity for a dummy pass?...are they pressuring quickly?....are they clumping and leaving an overload out wide?
  • Passing too quickly - especially when there's pressure from the defense involved, it's easy to feel the need to get a pass off to my teammate ASAP. But DON'T-FALL-FOR-IT. Passing too quickly is practically like asking the defense to take a break. It's easy as pie for the defense to shift down the line and see where the ball is clearly going ahead of time when you pass the ball immediately. But holding onto the ball, even for a step or two longer, can make all the difference....this is starting to sound ironic since I just talked about why hesitation before passing can be a bad thing. My coach made a good point at practice - any type of change in speed before passing can help throw off the defense. Whether you start at a lighter pace then have a sudden burst, or speed up then do a little side step/pause, simply mixing this up can keep the defense on your toes and not give them the opportunity to clearly know what's coming next. 
In the end, it just makes me all that more grateful for the opportunities I have been given to play on such wonderful teams in a variety of places. The more diverse and unique of a crowd I play with, the more universal this game becomes. The best rugby players can pick up a ball and be able to make magic happen with whoever is on their side.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Rugby Inspiration: Julian Edelman

I know....I know....I KNOWWWWWW. I bet everyone just read the title of this and said

But HEY - listen to his story. There's a reason to the phenomena that has become Edelman.

Before even the whiff of the idea of Edelman taking over the position for Wes Welker, he clearly had this fire radiating inside of him that I felt was apparent even in the brief (and not enough) time he had on the field.

This video explains where that fire came from. I watch this video before almost every workout, especially when I feel like giving up or that I'm not going anywhere (shout out to a men's rugger from my alma mater for showing me this video, we've stuck together as Pats fans in Buffalo, NY for a while!):

To give a little more background about that scouting report Edelman reads, he was flat out not invited to the 2009 NFL's pratically like getting cut from the NFL. Every year the NFL invites about 335 players to attend this scouting event, and in 2009 Edelman wasn't one of them.
HOWEVER, while the fastest short shuffle recorded at the combine was 3.96, Edelman ran it in 3.92 at a college pro day held in March.

Check this out:

In addition to the pro day results, private sessions with the Patriots are also accredited to Edelman making his way onto the NFL radar - hence the tagline for Coach Up, an organization that connects athletes to private sessions with coaches, says "Private coaching propelled Julian Edelman to NFL stardom."

FINALLY, Edelman signed a steal of a deal for the Pats in July 2009. He was picked in the 7th round of the draft, 232nd overall. However making it into the NFL isn't where Edelman's obstacles dissipated into thin air....

In about the same time frame when Edelman was drafted, Wes Welker was tearing it up on the Pats and quite a force to reckon with. All eyes were glued on him.

But sitting quietly and patiently for his turn was Edelman, and I'll never forget when he first stepped onto the field in 2009 as Welker suffered some injuries. To put it simply, he TORE-IT-UP. I remember thinking

I noticed the #11 ever since then, whenever he came on the field in my head I thought "PHEW, there's #11 again. He's reliable, good shit's about to happen." It was always a rush of calm when he popped up on the field.

Then Edelman had some of his own injuries, and suddenly I found myself saying "WOAH WOAH WOAH WOAH WOAH WOAH WOAH. WHERE DID HE GO."

Even after returning from his injury with more record breaking rookie stats, in 2010 he sat patiently again and waited for his turn.
...well, I'm sure he didn't actually just sit....he loves practicing catching one handed passes hours before game time.

Near the end of the 2010 season, he popped back up on the field and set more records for punt returns and yards per return. In 2011 he even started playing some defense!! He was also nominated in the NFL as the "Hardest Working Man," which in my book is more honorable than ANY type of MVP award.

The more opportunities Edelman capitalized on, the more he played until he (FINALLY) took over Wes Welker's position and became the vital, energetic, and passionate player that he always has been.

But let's review some of the amazing feats that Edelman has over come over the years:

  1. His "unconventional" size - yeah laugh about how small he appears, then two seconds after you'll find yourself flat on your back with a broken nose and your two front teeth knocked out. It seems INHUMAN how he is able to gain so many yards when running the ball and pinned up against people at least twice his size (hence the nickname "Minitron"). But that's because there's no substitute or better asset than hard work eithic. Putting the time and energy into fitness will make you defeat Goliath 9 times out of 10.
  2. How many times he was told "NO" - being cut, not picked, or not invited is NOT an easy thing to deal with. I know from experience! No matter what setting, rejection is freakin' tough (especially when you experience it a few times in a row). It's even tougher to not settle and not accept no for an answer. Even sitting on the sidelines for long periods of time and not playing even though you're working your tail off can gnaw at you...
  3. His versatility - while many people don't know off the bat that Edelman's primary position in college football was at QB, that's really where his expertise was in. However, Edelman clearly has been open to utilizing his skills wherever he is needed the most (and I mean....if you're picked up by the's a smart move to try out other positions than QB). He seems very similar to Tim Tebow, except for the fact that Tebow REFUSED to play any other positions. I HATE that mentality. It's a humble decision to agree to play wherever your team needs you, but in the end it benefits YOU more than anyone. Edelman's ability to learn multiple positions on offense and defense is what has truly made him such a threat across the NFL. But at the same time, people don't realize how HARD it is to pick up a new position or play something that is not your strongest setting. It's hard and it's awkward, but instead of saying "I should be playing QB" you should be saying "I should learn this position UNTIL it's as strong as QB."

So basically, he's such a rugby inspiration to me because he reiterates these lessons to me -

  • Don't ever count yourself out. If you want it, get it...and settle for nothing less.
  • Explore all your options. Not in the running for scrumhalf? Learn how to play fullback...or prop....or JUST ALL THE POSITIONS FOR THAT MATTER.
  • If you're not getting the results you want, ask what you can change or add to your routine to get there. There's ALWAYS something more you can do or learn.
  • Don't take no for an matter how many coaches cut  you or how many people tell you you're wasting your time.
And that's also why I lost my voice and teared up for a hot second when I saw Edelman all revved up and going NUTS at the Superbowl victory parade - he truly believes everything is earned, so when he was dancin' around like a madman it was because HE KNEW THEY ALL EARNED THEIR SUPERBOWL RINGS. 

Oh, and he's a hoot :) 
...and loves Dunks and cats.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


My GOODNESS this is exciting stuff. I'm loving the wave of appreciation for female athletes going around - it's contagious! And it's wonderful to see girls at such a young age being encouraged to enter the sports realm full throttle...because us girls WANT TO! When I was younger, I always had to have my older brother and cousin fight for me to be able to play sports with the other boys simply because I was a girl. If I was a brother instead of a sister, there would've been no question and the other boys would've accepted the extra batter/guard/wide receiver in their game. But allowing a girl to play with them back then was like accepting a "handicap" or a "disadvantage."
I'm so lucky that I had my brother and cousin around to fight for me, because playing sports at such a young age has been crucial to my success now. NOW, there's no questioning me joining a pick up game. And THERE NEVER SHOULD BE FOR ANY OTHER GIRL.

I caught wind of this documentary a while ago, but now it seems to be making a lot of headway and progress! Can't wait to see the final product:

Women's rugby is just incredible in so many ways. It's the same dimensions, same distance to score a try, same ball, pretty much same EVERYTHING as men's rugby. And (in my experience) male rugby players have never really treated me or any other women I've played with lightly - they don't really view the sport we play as anything "lower" or "lighter" than what they do. We both leave our hearts on the field. We both sacrifice an immeasurable amount of blood, sweat, and tears to succeed. A hard tackle feels just as good in women's rugby as it does men's....and hurts just as bad when someone steamrolls you. I think that a lot of this comes from rugby's overall culture of respect. True rugby players are respectful, humble, and supportive players of everyone and everything. No position, no gender, no ethnicity, no sexual orientation, no hair color, no height, no size, no one teammate is more important than the others. EVERYONE IS IMPORTANT, ON AND OFF THE FIELD.

It doesn't get easier, you just get better.

BLAGH, here comes VEGAS 7s YET AGAIN!

It's crazy to think that over a year has passed already since I last stepped on the field for this; I'm excited to experience the transformation for myself that I've gone through since then.

While there's still SO much more to go, I definitely need to reflect on how far I've come already. I'd say that last year's Vegas 7's was literally the FIRST time I've played sevens competitively and not in piles of snow. Needless to say, the drastic differences between 7s and 15s completely KNOCKED ME ON MY ASS.

But as much as I surprised myself at how much I fell back to square one, the realm of sevens was opened to me and I stepped into a whole new worldddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd! An amazing, exciting, scary-as-fuck world.

Sevens for me has basically turned into a place where the universe constantly asks me
"How good do you REALLY think you are at rugby? passing? tackling? thinking on your feet? LET'S FIND OUT."

Sevens is the TRUE test of all your rugby skills, in my personal opinion. Obviously there are some skills that aren't measured as much in sevens as they are in 15s, but the importance of tactic and having a sound knowledge of the game is just so freakin important when playing sevens. EVERYTHING you learn in sevens is useful knowledge for 15s.

So if you're a forward who's avoided sevens like the plague or someone who's just never had too many opportunities to do it - PLAY FREAKIN' SEVENS. Read about it, watch it, hop into it whenever you can. Sure, it's going to knock you on your ass once or twice or 50 times, but that brings you a step closer to knocking someone else on their ass in the long run.