Anyway, wanted to recap my weekend before this week got away from me. I mentioned it last week, but I was asked by my college team – the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Women aka SPWRFC – to guest coach this past weekend at the All Fools Tournament in Winona, MN. The Point women’s coach, who is also my senior select-sides coach, Gray is on tour in Sydney, Australia and didn’t want his team coachless.
I drove up to Point last Monday to run a practice for the team, just to help get them started outside last week and meet the players so I wasn’t completely clueless on Saturday. I also asked some of my teammates to join me and Pinkie, aka Kelly, joined the fun. Goose, aka Nicole, wanted to but stayed home to rest her foot and Tonya had to work.
So Pink and I had to be in Winona by 8:30 a.m. Which meant that I need to pick up Pinkie at her mom’s house 30 minutes outside of Madison at 6:15 a.m. This did not happen as I was quite sleepy and did not enjoy my alarm clock jarring me awake at 5 a.m. So I finally made it to Pinkieville at 6:40 … naturally, the two of us were rather slaphappy and goofy as we wound our way at high speed through the backcountry of Wisconsin. I had my mother’s lexus, which was stocked with only christmas music, and Kelly had one CD of country music, entitled “Drink Up Mix” so she said it had to be good.
We made good time though as I am quite the speedy driver. Also, in one of our more rediculous moments – maybe 7:30 a.m.? – we saw a big bird eating roadkill on the side of the road. Then all of a sudden it raises its head and spreads its huge wings and we realized it was a Bald Eagle! To which we both got way excited and agreed that neither of us had ever seen a Bald Eagle in the wild. And I told her we should turn around and I would take a picture if she snuck up next to it. She said … ummm no. Just then – not 30 seconds after the ginormous Bald Eagle – we saw a bear on the side of the road. And then Kelly yells “There’s two bears!!” so then we had to turn around because we had obviously driven into the next episode of Wild Kingdom. And then sadly, we discovered that we were actually driving by an Archery Farm and the two bears – although incredibly lifelike – were fake. However, the Bald Eagle was not. So we were still fairly excited and as the day continued, the story escalated to us both almost being killed by an Eagle and two bears. 🙂 That’s just how we roll on no sleep.
So, at 8:59 a.m., we had just crossed the Mississippi River (by the way, I had to sing the song to spell that) in La Crosse, Wis., and we received a call from the Point Women inquiring where their coaches might be. I dropped the plow completely as we sped up the side of the river to Winona along these very large and scary cliffs, despite signs warning of fallen rock. Arrival time at All Fools Tourney – just 1/4 way through the first game. Phew! We were there for the halftime and started our coaching.
The Point Women had brought up 16 players, including two new rookies. And I just want to say how fantastic a morning we had being your coaches, Point Women. Kelly and I were so impressed that every single one of you listened to what we had to say, used it immediately and worked together to really play well.
Their first game was a struggle, but they were really dominating the other team in the rucks. However, players were running alone, standing still to pass, hesitating and just really needed to be agressive out there. At the halftime, Pinkie and I brought this up and the second half saw some big strides made and they almost pulled out the win but ran out of time. Just to note, this was the team’s first competition of the spring. There was some rust to shake off.
So, during the break before the next game, we sat everyone down and talked about what they could work on and then answered individual questions, Kelly helped a new jumper with lineouts and we just stressed being agressive and having fun out there.
To the Point Women’s credit, they all have great attitudes, are fun to be around and work hard. Those are qualities you can’t coach. It was really positive for us to know they were really listening and taking it in, figuring out how what we recommended could work for them.
Maybe part of it is that Kelly and I aren’t too far removed from being college players ourselves, but we have – in our “old” age – tapped into the higher level of playing and thinking about rugby. Don’t know. But it was cool.
So, in the second game, I’m sorry other team (Mankato maybe?), but the Point Women owned that field. At one point in the first half, Kelly pointed out that Point had gained 20 meters defensively. Point used everything we had discussed and just kept playing together, really busting their butts. The only problem? We couldn’t finish our scoring. It was a 0-0 tie at the half, despite spending most of the game in the Mankato half. By the end of the second half, Pinkie and I were jumping up and down on the sidelines having coronaries as the Point Women kept the ball within Mankato’s 10-meter for at least 15 minutes (20-min. halves) and had FIVE tries held up. Not kidding. Our girl’s just couldn’t figure out how to get low enough and away from the opponents hands to touch it down. We went into sudden-death overtime, again with a held-up try or maybe even two. Not sure but it was a hell of a game.
Finally, and annoyingly, the game was decided by kicks. Pick your best three kickers, most made kicks wins. I reminded Point that despite the score, their playing had been outstanding and the whole team was stoked as we sat figuring out kickers. The two teams took turns, we made our first one, Mankato missed one by its best player/kicker, then we missed our second and Mankato made theirs, then our last kicker, Sammy, who looked quite confident, nailed hers, pumped her fist and yelled “Yes!”, got straightfaced again and ran over for high-fives from her cheering teammates. Mankato looked beat and tired, and their kicker missed the kick to give us the win. Not how we would have liked it, but a win nonetheless.
The earlier loss meant Point wouldn’t make the championship at 4 p.m., so it was only 12:30 and Kelly and I suggested going out for lunch at Culvers with the whole team. On the drive over, she and I decided we would give the best player a t-shirt from our team, but then realized we couldn’t pick just one player, so we needed a back and forward. But then struggled because every player had done so well, even the newest rookie Chelsea who barely missed out on a try when the ball was knocked out of her hands just feet from the line. So, we opted to pick the two players who had really lead their teammates in tenacity – Robin the scrumhalf and Bridget the center. We also threw in two of our WWRFC cleatbags for fun.
Culvers was good and its always a positive to sit down afterwards and get to know the players more. I think it can only help college and senior women’s teams to work together like this. And I’m really lucky to be a product of such a fantastic college team.
By the end of lunch, Kelly and I realized we would be back in Madison before our men’s team would be wrapping up their home game against the Rockford Ravens. We sped home – even more slaphappy than before and with stops for candy – and made excellent time. We even took 30 minutes to stop at the famed Carl’s Brite Spot in Mauston off of Exit 69. And no, Minnesota rugby crew, we saw your notebook but respected its importance and didn’t sign it, unlike some others. We didn’t see any Metro Men hiding in the smoky eaves of Carl’s though.
So, we sped into Madison and pulled into the men’s bar, The Brass Ring, at 4:30 right on time for the free beer and food. Excellent timing. And everyone waiting for us had thought we wouldn’t be home until 9 p.m. or later, so surprise!
I stayed there for a few hours and then finally the 5 a.m. wake-up call hit me hard and sleep was calling, but first I needed to super glue my friend’s nose together. Yes, that’s right. I said super glue a nose together. He had caught an elbow in the face during the game that day and later discovered the inside of one of his nostrils had split open a tiny bit. The team’s lock – who’s an MD – said to use super glue. Which for the record, I questioned, but did as I was told. After much trial and tribulation and even a painful minute or two with fingers stuck to his nose which then needed to be ripped off, I successfully sealed the split and it held without further pain.
Needless to say, I will be listing super glue nurse on my resume from this point foreward.
And Point Women, Thanks!