Monthly Archives: April 2007

Enter the weekend …

With the proper attitude:

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Challenge Match

Now that the brew over the Belmont Shore – Austin Valkyries challenge match seems to have slowed down a bit, I thought I should cap it.

I received several well-written messages from leadership on both teams. And after thinking about it for a while, I can see both sides.

I fully admit that when someone first told me about it, I didn’t think it was very fair. Again, this was my very initial thought. Legal yes, but not “fair”. And I thought immediately of a men’s team here in the Midwest.

This men’s team has wholeheartedly used their local resources (in this particular case, allegedly a very wealthy benefactor) to bolster their team, propelling themselves up the division chain and dominating their competition. I met some of the guys that play for this team recently. All nice guys. It was a mix of local guys, a few foreign players and then young American guys from all over the states who had played abroad in Scotland, New Zealand, etc., and then were recruited to this team. In essentially the middle of nowhere. The team plays by the rules, but many of their opponents view the team negatively for this alleged “roster loading”.

And this men’s team is just powerful and fast. You can clearly see that the talent brought in raises the play of every member of the team. It’s like that on every team, though, isn’t it? One player who brings everything they’ve got to practice and games will naturally spread that to their teammates.

Psychologically, you also have to wonder if their opponents haven’t already stepped on the field ready to lose because they know what this team can bring.

But that’s the gist of the argument isn’t it?

The rules are what they are. They were created to cover the broad spectrum of possible issues that can happen on the field and to a team. Teams are supposed to follow the rules. The rules are what make the game fair.

Should we find fault with a team who followed the rules and then won a game? Should we lambast them because the rules allow teams to add new players – foreign and domestic – that can play rugby well? Should we label their opponents as victims because the opposition didn’t have the same level of speed, talent, skills, recruiting, support, mentality, as the winning team?

The answer on any given day is No.

Every player, every team out there needs to know that when you step on the field for a game, you need to be ready for what’s coming at you.

We all need to stop pointing fingers at others and looking within ourselves. Asking ourselves if we are following the rules? Are we playing rugby well? Are we bringing the same level of speed, talent, skills, recruiting, support, mentality as who we are about to play?

And to win games and to succeed as a team, as a sport, that answer on any given day needs to be Yes.

To both the women of Belmont Shore and to the Austin Valkyries, good luck in the rest of your seasons. I look forward to the opportunity to possibly play your teams at Sweet 16s next fall.

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Crazy Stats

Just a note on actual blogging, but my visitor stats have been going crazy lately. Completely mental. I think I’ve been picked up my google’s spiders at a higher level or whatever.

Last month was the busiest month ever with over 7,000 visitors.

This month, which isn’t even over yet, is already at 11,500 and climbing.

I don’t even want to think about what this means for people out there reading my gobbley-gook. Or the greater implications.

I’ll just keep pretending it’s just me and a few other ruggers, okay?

But if anyone out there in the 11,500+ wants to send me cupcakes, perhaps we can be friends. 🙂

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Sprained

So why “sprained” you ask?

It’s both specific and far reaching I say. So applicable in many different ways.

I’m just feeling sprained overall today.

This week has been frustrating in rugby.

Tuesday, we had low numbers at practice and were trying to figure out our field situation. But Tuesday is early enough in the week that hope is always there.

Wednesday, I decided to drive two hours north to run a practice with my college team in their last week of their spring season. We worked on tackling better and then long-ball rucking. Both things that I need to work on, my own team works on constantly. So it was good to coach that, because actually coaching it always helps me figure it out better too. And it did help, a lightbulb went off for me in my form/skill for long-ball rucking. It hadn’t been coming together much before then. I got home from coaching at 10 p.m. and ended up staying up past 1 a.m. finishing this scary book I needed to know the ending of. I’m a voracious reader.

So … then Thursday happened. And I was tired from the week already.

We finally pinned down some of our final plans for Seattle (Yeah!), full roster and all that, but then due to really soggy field conditions and some redneck who decided to drive all over our field, causing deep ruts, we found ourselves in quite the predicament for this week’s game. Adding to the mix, we play at a city park and although the city likes us a lot, they can’t get anyone there to fix it before summer.

So our other options were to re-line a different section of our field/another park and build our own goalposts or find a different already-lined, goalposted field to borrow for 80 minutes. But none of this came together. And time runs out. So instead of having a home game tomorrow, my team is honoring our game that we originally planned to host Chicago North Shore and driving to them for a friendly instead.

Numbers were also an issue this week for some reason. It was like the ultimate culminination of bad luck and murphy’s law. And there’s no reason to kill ourselves to manually fix our field if we can’t even have a full roster for a visiting team. So we’re off to Chicago. Roll with the punches.

Not at all as I had hoped. And very frustrating.

It’s further frustrating when you then have to answer the questions of your coaches and teammates who are there. My answer to yesterday was “There’s no need to preach to the choir.” After my coach immediately came up to my car as I pulled in to another rainy frusrating practice, I just stopped him midsentence and said “Coach, there will never be someone on this team right now who could possibly be more disappointed then I am this week.”

So those of us at practice slugged through the rain-soaked grass and mud, ran our drills, did our up/downs and ended with a normally good contact drill. But one of my teammates – who by the way has vastly improved her good aggressive tackling – caught me in a tackle and my leg must’ve planted funny because it did not feel good, but I caught it, yelled and kind of jumped out of it before I really went down. I think that saved my knee from further issue.

So I think I have a MCL sprain. Just a little one. As I just told my boyfriend, it’s more just a feeling of it not being “spiffy” than it is pain or any swelling. I’ll rest it today, ice it later and see how it feels tomorrow. I was seriously worried though. The fear of blowing out my knee is always there.

I hate preaching to the choir, you know.

The Midwest invite list also came out yesterday. I was not surprised, but I was not invited to the camps. I came into the camp with out any true history of formal coaching, just another one of many of us out there who have learned by just playing, and not in good shape. But I think I did pretty well considering. And players who I considered myself close to in size, speed, skills were also either not invited or asked as alternates for some of the flankers.

Specifically on the coaching, it really does make a world of difference. My entire athletic life I’ve had dozens of coaches. In HS track alone, a different coach each year. In rugby here in Madison, the past four years, three different coaches. In all sports, some of the coaches were complete jerks, but most were good people. But good people don’t always make good coaches, you know?

And for the record, my three rugby coaches in Madison were good people and knew their rugby. Our current coach brings organization and enthusiasm to a team that needed it bad.

But for Midwests, it was one of those feelings of being both disappointed – it’s never fun to not be included – but also relieved – because I know I’m not “there” yet – and it’s one less rugby thing I need to stress over this spring.

This said, it was still really great to go to the camp and see first-hand what level of play, fitness, skill it takes to be invited. And like GI Joe reminds us, “Knowing is half the battle.”

So, yeah, going to Chicago tomorrow. Already working on getting ready for our last two games before Seattle.

If you’re playing this weekend, best of luck.

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UPDATED: Coming at you like a spider monkey

So … I was pretty sore and tired and sunburnt from this weekend’s Midwest Selects camp.

Not sore from anything in particular, but we did a lot of various contact drills/scrimmages, and the field was really hard on Sunday. That just gave me an overall soreness. Like the day after a full game, to a slightly lesser degree. My face, arms and the back of my neck got way to much sun. My skin was still winter white and wasn’t ready at all for 83-degree full sun.

I liked the camp a lot. I liked how our coaches instructed us, a lot more of questions and talking through scenarios. It was cool to work through situations as a group of players on one team. Also got to meet a lot of people I normally just get to play against.

We’ll hear this week who gets invited up to the next level of camps and team events. I wanted to do the camp to learn and not expecting anything more. And I learned a lot. So anything after this is bonus. My teammates thought I played pretty well all weekend, so that was nice to hear.

We’re getting into just one month out from our challenge match in Seattle. Our fundraising has gone really well and we’re trying to just tie down a few more teammates and their airline tickets. This trip is going to be awesome. And it’s nice to hear that so many of our fellow Midwest ruggers are cheering for us too.

In other challenge match news, keep your ears and eyes open for fallout from the Belmont Shore – Austin Valkyries match this past weekend. Belmont Shore won it – handily – 86-0 to win SoCal’s first seed to Sweet 16s since 2003. That’s a big big win, especially for supposedly closely-seeded teams. The Valkyries may be questioning how this win was accomplished though. And who was on the roster. Since I don’t like sharing hearsay, I’ll wait and see what happens. Know more? Drop me an e-mail.

Okay … I’ll blog more later if I get the time. As usual, I’m trying to keep 20 plates all spinning, but I need to catch a bus to my car to get a big pickup truck to go move a scrumsled. Blondie’s work is never done. And it’s raining. Booo!

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ADDED: I’m getting some e-mail, in addition to the comments, to this post, so I’ll leave it up for today at the top. I won’t share the e-mails unless I’m asked to by the writer.

I don’t wish to add to any rumors, but I think a game and a score like this is important for discussion in the women’s game, especially if questions are raised.

Belmont Shore defeated the Austin Valkyries 86-0. That is a fact. It was a USA Rugby challenge match – like the one my own team has just one month from tomorrow in Seattle – and before that kickoff, all the rosters are checked, paperwork verified, etc.

If you read the comments to this post, you’ll see that the Belmont Shore President, Brooke, stepped up and is defending their score and discussing the work that their team did for this win. I was glad to see a different take on this.

In turn, if you visit Scrumhalf Connection, you’ll see a post by Wendy, the scrummie of the Valks, about her opinions and players who played for Belmont Shore.

I won’t deny that out of my own curiousity, I looked at the Belmont Shore CIPP roster via USA Rugby’s website. I googled a few of the player’s names and I will admit to being surprised at what I found.

I think both Brooke, Wendy, and both of their respective teams, have the right to discuss this. I also think that our community of rugby players have the right to discuss this. So I’m leaving this up for more discussion. Hopefully we’ll all learn from it.

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Why You Should Never Give Up

Related to this post about my college team, I received this by e-mail today (some edited by me for less identifiers):

The following is an amendment to the Men’s Rugby/SP Rugby Club conduct decision rendered on April 7, 2007:

At the time of the conduct hearing and subsequent outcome, committee members were utilizing the UW-System Regent’s Policy on Recognition of Student Organizations as a basis for their decision-making. Further review of the policy, and specifically of Title IX, has resulted in an administrative change in the original committee decision.

The organization currently known as the SP Men’s Rugby Football remains suspended until July 1, 2008. All other sanctions related to the men’s team are also in effect.

The SP Women’s Rugby Football Team will no longer be impacted by the sanctions listed on April 7, 2007.

Title IX allows for the separation of a student organization or club that is involved in a competitive contact sport such as the Men’s and Women’s Rugby teams. It is recommended that the SP Men’s Rugby Football Team and the Women’s Rugby Football team remain as separate entities and not join memberships. The Student Government Association Budget Director will be notified of this change in organization status and would ask that selected members of the Women’s Rugby Team meet with the Budget Director over the summer to adjust funding from the proposed merged group, back to the Women’s organization. Their constitution shall stay on file and no changes are needed to this document.

Further research will be conducted during the summer to further understand the implications of this policy and segregated fee funding to affected student organizations.

Thank you for your patience as this process has unfolded.

We raised our voices, did our homework, didn’t take no as an answer. Dug in. Great Job! And Well Done to my college team for standing up for themselves.

ADDED: Here is my original letter after I found out that our team was facing suspension through no fault of their own:

Concerned Alum – Future Suspension of Women’s Rugby Club
Chancellor XXX and Ms. XXX –

I am writing to you both on behalf of the UW-Stevens Point Women’s Rugby Club and ask you to reconsider the recent decision to suspend the Women’s Rugby Club from campus starting July 1, 2007 due to the poor decisions of the Men’s Rugby Club.

As a UW-Stevens Point alum, honors graduate (class of 2000) and former Women’s Rugby Club officer and player, I was truly saddened to learn the fate of the Women’s Rugby Club from current president XXX.

This club was started by smart and athletic women who played rugby with pride and worked hard to best represent UW-Stevens Point. In recent years, the club has stepped above and beyond their clubs sports and rugby peers at UWSP and other universities in the state by building a team that played exceptionally good rugby, excelled both on the field and in the classroom and broke away from the negative stereotypes of college athletics.

The UWSP Women’s Rugby Club provided me with so many wonderful memories and experiences while working towards my bachelor’s degree. This club was a sisterhood of women who worked and played together to excel at UWSP and continues to be one of the top collegiate women’s rugby clubs in Wisconsin and the Midwest. I am very proud to say that I played for this team in college.

As a continuing Division I senior women’s rugby athlete and coach, I have had the honor of returning to Stevens Point to help current players in practices and even helping coach the Point Women at a recent tournament. This team counts among its roster several Wisconsin All-Star athletes, Midwest All-Stars and a USA Rugby Women’s National Team player. How many of the varsity athletes at UW-Stevens Point can count themselves as members of a U.S. national team?

I urge you to revisit the decisions made to suspend the Women’s Rugby Club from campus. Do not punish this group of dedicated student-athletes for the stupid and reckless decisions of other students simply because both groups happen to play the same sport.

UWSP is supposed to “offer our students many opportunities for leadership and service, but, most importantly we provide a supportive and lively environment for studying and learning” according to Chancellor XXX’s mission statement on the campus website (…). By suspending the Women’s Rugby Club from campus, you are surely taking away the opportunity for these women to be leaders and student-athletes.

I would be happy to discuss this further or any other issues related to the Women’s Rugby Club. You can reach me by e-mail or by phone at …. Please Help the Women’s Rugby Club continue to play rugby on the UWSP campus.

Thank you for your time,

– Blondie

Blondie the Rugby Blogger
UW-Stevens Point Class of 2000, Cum Laude
UW-SP Women’s Rugby Club Alum

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College Playoffs Start Today

Via USA Rugby:

USA Rugby’s Division I & II College Playoffs Set to Begin
BOULDER, Colo. – Forty-eight of the nation’s best Division I and Division II men’s and women’s college rugby teams will compete in the USA Rugby College Playoffs, April 20-22. The teams in contention are set to meet at one of four locations across the U.S. for the opportunity to advance through the first two rounds of their respective championship brackets. USA Rugby’s DI and DII Men’s and Women’s College Championships will host the winners from this weekend’s event and are set to be held on May 4-5 at Stanford, Calif.

The DI men’s and women’s college tournament follows a standard 16 team format with four pools of four teams each, while the DII men’s and women’s tournament goes by an eight team format with two pools of four teams each. Each year the Competitions Committee reviews the results of the previous year’s championship event and seeds and allocates the field for the following year. All seven of USA Rugby’s territories see representation at this highly anticipated collegiate rugby tournament.

The 2007 USA Rugby Championship season officially kicks off at noon on Friday, April 20, at the University of California – Berkeley, when Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Rugby Club will meet the University of Minnesota in the first official match of the tournament. The University of California’s Witter Rugby Field plays host to the Division I Men’s Pool A (University of California, San Diego State University, University of New Mexico and Harvard) and Pool B (Brigham Young University, Cal Poly SLO, University of Wyoming and University of Minnesota) action.

Penn State University is the other location that will start its event on Friday. PSU hosts both the DI Men’s and Women’s playoffs and starts at 5:30 p.m. on Friday night when Tennessee plays Penn State in Men’s Pool C action. Following that match up, Utah will take on Purdue, while Pool D’s Clemson takes on Navy and Army meets St Mary’s.

The University of California is again the team to beat in this year’s DI men’s brackets, as they try to make 2007 their fourth National Championship win in a row. However, this year sees five new teams brought into the top-16 with the Harvard replacing Dartmouth in the Northeast’s second slot, San Diego State University making a name for itself as a representative of the Southern California territory, St. Mary’s College snagging one of the Pacific spots, the University of Minnesota taking Ohio State University’s position and the University of New Mexico squeezing in for the West as the No. 16 seed.

On Saturday, the DI women’s tournament action starts with Pool B’s Ohio State University facing Penn State on PSU’s home field at 9 a.m. Army plays Chico State to round out the Pool B matchups, while Pool C, which includes the U.S. Naval Academy versus Brown and UC Santa Barbara versus the University of New Mexico, will also be played out at Penn State. Pool A (West Chester University, Clemson University, Stanford University and Texas A & M) and Pool D (Appalachian State University, University of Northern Iowa, Virginia and UC Davis) will also battle it out on Saturday but at the University of Florida’s Southwest Recreational fields. Top-ranked Stanford University is again the team to beat in this women’s division, although the No. 2 seeded Penn State undoubtedly looks to find its way to Championships.

In Division II action, both the men’s and women’s collegiate playoff action takes place in sunny Sanford, Fla., just 20 miles north of Orlando. The round of eight kicks off on Saturday morning with Pool A’s top-ranked U.C. Santa Cruz meeting the No. 8 College of Charleston on the women’s side. The University of Arizona and Bowdoin continue the women’s play, while the top-seeded U.S. Coast Guard Academy takes on the University of Northern Iowa, and Arkansas State University matches up against Loyola in the men’s bracket. Later in the day, Humboldt State University will face Salisbury, while Middlebury College will take on the University of Northern Colorado in Pool B Men’s action, and the women’s Iowa State University team will face off against Mary Washington, while Western Oregon meets Norwich.

USA Rugby has requested all of its playoff hosts to hold a moment of silence before each of the day’s first matches as our thoughts go out to the family, friends and colleagues of the victims from Virginia Tech.

For more information on the DI/DII Men’s Collegiate Playoffs, please visit http://www.usarugby.org/goto/mens_collegiate and for the DI/DII Women’s Collegiate Playoffs, go to http://www.usarugby.org/goto/womens_collegiate.

MATCH SCHEDULE:
University of California – Division I Men
Friday, April 20
12:00 pm: (Pool B) Cal Poly SLO vs. University of Minnesota
2:00 pm: (Pool B) University of Wyoming vs. BYU

Saturday, April 21
10:00 am: (Pool A) Cal v University of New Mexico
12:00 pm: (Pool A) San Diego State v Harvard
2:00 pm: Pool B Consolation Bracket
4:00 pm: Pool B Championship Bracket

Sunday, April 22
12:00 pm: Pool A Consolation Bracket
2:00 pm: Pool A Championship Bracket

Penn State University – Division I Men
Friday, April 20
5:30 pm: (Pool C) University of Tennessee v Penn State University
6:00 pm: (Pool C) University of Utah v Purdue University
7:30 pm: (Pool D) Clemson University v U.S. Naval Academy
8:00 pm: (Pool D) Army v St. Mary’s

Saturday, April 21
4:00 pm: Pool C Consolation Bracket
4:30 pm: Pool D Consolation Bracket
6:00 pm: Pool C Championship Bracket
6:30 pm: Pool D Championship Bracket

University of Florida – Division I Women
Saturday, April 21
10:00 am: (Pool D) Appalachian State v University of Northern Iowa
10:30 am: (Pool D) Virginia v UC Davis
12:00 pm: (Pool A) West Chester v Clemson University
12:30 pm: (Pool A) Stanford v Texas A & M

Sunday, April 22
10:00 am: Pool D Consolation Bracket
10:30 am: Pool A Consolation Bracket
12:00 pm: Pool D Championship Bracket
12:30 pm: Pool A Championship Bracket

Penn State University – Division I Women
Saturday, April 21
9:00 am: (Pool B) Ohio State v Penn State
9:30 am: (Pool B) Army v Chico State
11:00 am: (Pool C) U.S. Naval Academy v Brown
11:30 am: (Pool C) UC Santa Barbara v University of New Mexico

Sunday, April 22
9:00 am: Pool B Consolation Bracket
9:30 am: Pool B Championship Bracket
11:00 am: Pool C Consolation Bracket
11:30 am: Pool C Championship Bracket

Sanford, Fla. – Division II Men
Saturday, April 21
11:00 am: (Pool A) U.S. Coast Guard Academy v University of Northern Iowa
11:30 am: (Pool A) Arkansas State University v So Cal #1
3:00 pm: (Pool B) Middlebury College v University of Northern Colorado
3:30 pm: (Pool B) Humboldt State University v Salisbury

Sunday, April 22
11:00 am: Pool A Consolation Bracket
11:30 am: Pool B Consolation Bracket
3:00 pm: Pool A Championship Bracket
3:30 pm: Pool B Championship Bracket

Sanford, Fla. – Division II Women
Saturday, April 21
9:00 am: (Pool A) UC Santa Cruz v College of Charleston
9:30 am: (Pool A) University of Arizona v Bowdoin
1:00 pm: (Pool B) Mary Washington v Iowa State University
1:30 pm: (Pool B) Western Oregon v Norwich

Sunday, April 22
9:00 am: Pool B Consolation Bracket
9:30 am: Pool A Consolation Bracket
1:00 pm: Pool B Championship Bracket
1:30 pm: Pool A Championship Bracket

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