Turkey-fueled Rugby 7s in NYC

The New York Rugby Club held their annual 7s tourney this past weekend … full results are here from 92 participating teams.

The 48th Annual NY 7s Tournament featured 92 teams competing in seven divisions on an unseasonably warm weekend…..Congratulations to the 2006 NY 7s Champions…

Premier: Angry Canadians RFC
Men’s Club: New York Manhattan
Women’s Club: New York
Social: URI Alumni
Over 40s: White Plains Old Boys
Men’s Collegiate: U. of New Hampshire Blue
Women’s Collegiate: Concordia University Stingers

UPDATE: Jessa in NY sent me this shortly after I posted …

Blondie,

Just wanted to send in some results from this past Saturday’s New York 7s Tournament…

Among a total of 92 teams competing, we had 16 in Women’s Club and 9 in Women’s Collegiate

New York won the Women’s Club division in a 27-17 final against TMR Women from Montreal (http://www.tmrrfc.qc.ca/). New York beat NOVA in the semis, while TMR came out ahead of Last Call (Beantown’s alter ego for the NY 7s). Team Ridiculous from Brampton Rugby won the Plate and Squirrels Gone Wild, also from Canada, won the Bowl. Overall the Women’s Club division featured 8 teams from Canada (split between Ontario and Quebec teams), and 8 from the US (mostly NRU teams with a couple from MARFU and the ladies from Cleveland Women’s Rugby adding a touch of Midwest flavor). We’d love to get some teams from overseas in on the act here!

The Concordia University Stingers beat TMR’s U-23 team in what was an all Canadian Women’s Collegiate final. The University of New Hampshire beat out a mixed Fordham/Columbia side for the Plate, while the Empire State Collegiate All Stars edged UCONN for the Bowl.

Full results are here and all tournament information is available here.

And for the second year in a row, the New York Press featured a special section on the NY 7s …

Intro Letter

Sevens for Dummies – Matt Brown

Participating Teams

McCoy Keeps Her Feet Moving – Alex Goff – Interview with USA 7s Coach Julie McCoy (Also below)

What Brings You Here? – Katie Maccallum

The Scrums of New York – Doug Black – Why New Yorkers should care about rugby (but still won’t). (Also pasted below)

MCCOY KEEPS HER FEET MOVING
Alex Goff speaks with Julie McCoy, USA Women’s Sevens head coach

By Alex Goff

Rugby hotbeds spring up in some unexpected places, and Little Rock, Ark., is quietly becoming one of them. The reason is one woman: Dr. Julie McCoy, who operated her own neurology practice, Neurology of Arkansas, in the state’s capital, is also woefully obsessed with rugby. She has been the head coach of the Women’s West Territorial All-Star Team and now helms the USA Rugby’s seven-a-side women’s team as it stands on the brink of some big changes. McCoy also started FasterFeet L.L.C. (www.footworkcamp.com), which holds rugby footwork camps around the country.

In 2006 the USA Sevens hosted and won its first ever Women’s International Sevens tournament in February, beating Canada in the final. That Tournament coincided with the United States’ stop on the International Rugby Board (IRB) Men’s Sevens Series. The women then made the semifinals of the Hong Kong Sevens before losing to Australia, ultimately taking third.

New York Press: Once you took the Sevens job, you went right into finding more competition for the team, even if you had to invent it. What’s on the slate for this season?

Julie McCoy: We assembled a developmental side for the NAWIRA [North American West Indies Rugby Association] Tournament Nov. 11 to the 12. I am taking an elite group of players to the Emirates Airlines Dubai Women’s Sevens Nov. 27. We are planning a six-team international tournament in San Diego in February. And we will play in the Ladies International Tournament in Hong Kong. All of those tournaments are in conjunction with IRB men’s events.

NYP: The USA Sevens team has competed in maybe two tournaments, with the Atlantis touring team adding a few more. So this seems to be an improvement.

JM: It’s a very aggressive international schedule; I don’t know of any other nation that is represented at four different tournaments over the season.

NYP: How are you finding these players?

JM: We held an open tryout camp in Chicago in June, as well as two invitation-only camps in August and September. Dave Von Kolnitz and I got the territorial teams to play at the Cape Fear Sevens and then there was the actual National All-Star Championships in August.
The developmental team was selected from my footwork camps, Barb Fugate’s recent U23 camp and the Sevens NASC.

NYP: With balancing trying to get as much high-level competition as possible and having players not take too much time away from school or work (or spend too much money), where do you draw the line?

JM: We try to select a few different players that fill in at different venues, to get 20 to 25 players as much international experience as we can. Thus, not everyone has to be off work or school for every venue. In addition, due to our aggressive fund-raising efforts, most pay little out-of-pocket expenses. We hope that as our play and visibility improve, more sponsorship interest will come.

NYP: Women’s Sevens rugby in the United States has a big jump between a fun summer weekend on the pitch and serious high-level …

JM: But playing for your territorial side or your country is fun. Just ask any player.

NYP: Fair enough. But we have a national team and all-star teams, but players have to encounter the right playing circumstances to get to those all-star teams. How can you bridge that gap?

JM: There are pockets of good club competitions—both the Midwest and mid-Atlantic territories hold club Sevens championships. Short-term, an attempt to force clubs to play Sevens toward a National Club Championship for women would fail. So our current emphasis is to focus on improving the territorial-level teams. Of course, increased success usually begets increased interest, so hopefully, long-term, we will join the USA Men’s clubs with our own club competition.

NYP: We talk regularly in the men’s game about fast-tracking athletes from other sports; putting the odd football or basketball athlete into Sevens and making that guy a star. But can’t you do that with women, too?

JM: Absolutely! In fact, at the territorial coaches meeting, I asked each of them to give top priority to recruiting! We can’t afford to wait for them to just show up at our practices; we have to go get them. Our player pool isn’t deep as it is—just ask the 15-a-side coaches. Thing is, it’s usually easier to talk an ex-basketball or soccer player into Sevens than 15-a-side.

NYP: USA Rugby has put in a bid for the 2009 Sevens World Cup for both men and women. This will be a first for the women, and the USA has a real opportunity to win a medal at this championship. Is that something that can energize fans, the idea that American women are among the best in the world at something?

JM: Well, I certainly believe so. You know, U.S. Women’s Sevens teams have been in the top three teams ever since Emil Signes initiated his dream of winning the Hong Kong Sevens. Our players are some of the best athletes in the world. I would venture to say that the U.S. Women’s Sevens organization is the most organized in the world right now and there are some similarities with the U.S. women’s soccer team that started out with great success. In fact, I believe that if the rugby public got behind U.S. Women’s Sevens, the other teams would only benefit from the visibility. After all, we’re trying to get the public to use rugby as a household word, aren’t we? Where I come from, if your momma says it’s OK to play rugby as a kid, then it is so! We need to get the rugby moms on our side. Sevens can do that.

NYP: We’re coming up on the New York Sevens. Who are some of the players in the region you think have some potential to continue to play at a high level in the Sevens?

JM: Sevens in November? Brrrrr. But the players love this tournament. Last year, Tyshawn Henry won the MVP of the women’s tournament and played in two or three of our USA venues. I like the pure wing speed of Jenna Flateman, the ball winning abilities of Alison Price, the unadulterated aggression of Phaidra Knight and Amy Daniels, and the crowd pleasing finesse of Inez Rodriguez and Daniela Mogro. All are players from different clubs likely represented there in the tournament.

NYP: But you’ve been busy in the off-season, too. You have been holding footwork camps around the country, not just for your Sevens players but for teams that pay for you to teach them. What’s the philosophy behind them?

JM: What I think surprises most players—and their coaches—is that teaching a player how to run with the ball in hand actually opens up that player’s offensive ability by giving them confidence. It’s funny that I think most people who go to their first rugby practice get taught how to pass first. Of course, we want to work on our passing, but if that’s what we practice, that’s all we do! Teaching the players and coaches how to be evasive and how to train for it allows for each player, regardless of the number on their back, to want the ball and feel confident in participating in the offense.

NYP: These camps have become a mini industry. There’s a non-profit side and then a for-profit enterprise that helps support the USA team right?

JM: We run invitation-only camps in Little Rock, and then we go around the country holding three-day camps with clubs and unions. We use the proceeds to help support the USA Sevens team. Basically what we did was we developed a business that we feel passionate about that then supports the other things we’re passionate about. The feedback from the players and the coaches has been overwhelmingly positive.

NYP: For the uninitiated, what types of athletic skills and temperament make a top-flight Sevens player?

JM: They have to be complete rugby players, regardless of position. Each player stands alone with 10 meters separating her from any other player. She needs to be able to pass and catch, possess lateral movement and agility skills to beat opponents one-on-one, have the breakaway speed to score tries, be physical (with control) while in contact, be a coach on the field and possess the personality that allows them to buy in to the team system.
I have always felt that I could find 10 players from across this great country of ours that could do it all. I believe in the power of the American woman to do whatever she sets her mind to.

And here’s Scrums of New York …

THE SCRUMS OF NEW YORK
Why New Yorkers Should Care About Rugby (But Still Won’t)

By Doug Black

Rugby is an invisible sport—at least in the United States. Most North American fans of physical competition are content to ignore it, despite a long and storied history. The sport dates back to the early 19th century and was featured in four of the first seven Olympiads, with America shocking the world by taking home a pair of gold medals. But today, nobody seems to care. And nowhere is this more true than the Big Apple. In a sports-saturated town with no less than 20 professional and semi-professional teams, it’s understandable that some would take a back seat. But in its various forms, rugby is a more popular global sport than American football, and there’s no shortage of reasons why New York should jump on board. It’s undeniably a faster, more aggressive sport—and one that almost anyone can play. Still, for Americans, rugby looks bound to remain in exile on college campuses and in a few sporadic leagues.

New York City, like Chicago and Boston, is a baseball town at heart. This national pastime captivates the city every season, as we frequently place a team in the playoffs. But we ignore the irrefutable fact: Baseball is boring. Fans count pitches and calculate RBIs on sprawling summer afternoons while watching extended commercial breaks divided by short periods of sluggish activity. Baseball devotees are satisfied with a sport that’s excruciatingly slow, with plenty of time spent on warming up pitchers and adjusting batting gloves between pitches, but there must be some fans yearning for more action. With no timeouts and only brief stops before plays, rugby would fit the bill. From start to finish, fans are treated to kinetic motion that puts baseball to shame.

Rugby also makes basketball look positively tame by comparison, as there are no substitutions. The constant flow of basketball players on and off the court slows the momentum to a crawl. It also robs the sport of any test of human endurance. In rugby, there’s no rest for the weary. If you get hurt, you’re out of the game, and there’s nobody to fill your shoes. In essence, you play until you physically can’t go any longer—and then you play some more. Substitutions and commercial break rest time rob basketball of any test of fortitude. And rugby players also need to be truly versatile.

Unlike football, every player plays both offense and defense. “America’s Game” is marked by constant changes in players who can only play one position—all one-trick ponies. Defense switches to offense then switches to special teams, while in rugby, the same people are on the field at all times, playing every role. It’s a true test of physical stamina and resourcefulness that leaves no place for uncoordinated, 300-pound lineman.

In addition to more action, rugby is also infinitely more intense. After all, there’s no other sport where players tape their ears down for risk of having them ripped off. And aside from that meager protection, players are totally unencumbered with pads and bulky helmets, making American football players resemble sickly kids whose mothers dressed them before rollerblading. Football is, after all, a slower, less physical derivative of rugby that was born on university campuses in the late 19th century. The constant, truly maniacal action of rugby was transformed into a sport of overblown egos that has 10 seconds of actual play for every five minutes of idle preparation. It’s clear which of the two retains the real spirit of physical competition.

And like groups of neighborhood kids swinging broomsticks at secondhand tennis balls, rugby is played with minimal equipment. It fits right in with New York City’s history of inclusive sports. It requires only a ball and a patch of grass (which, admittedly, can be a daunting search in some corners). The expense and complication of getting the requisite pads and equipment for hockey or football can place a formidable strain on the wallet, and essentially excludes low-income athletes. It’s about time that the city championed a sport that can truly be played universally. But despite all this, Americans seem content to chat or complain during huge periods between plays and pour over statistics instead of watching real, genuine action. In this era where the Hail Mary pass and home run records are our bread and butter, there seems to be no place for brute muscle forcing a ball forward. Perhaps New York is more enamored by statistics than physical prowess and maybe that’s just the steadfast prerogative of a stubborn city.

Photo: New York Rugby photo by Sabrina Asch, featured in the New York Press.

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1 Comment

Filed under New York 7s

One response to “Turkey-fueled Rugby 7s in NYC

  1. Blondie

    Spam will die … don’t post it!

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