by Nigel Melville
Nigel Melville Direct
This week I will be spending a couple of days at the Olympic Training Center meeting with both the men’s and women’s squads ahead of their upcoming trip to Hong Kong. Over the weekend, the resident men and women are joined by extended ‘taxi’ squads for fitness testing and a selection camp. The successful 12 men and 12 women will then leave for Hong Kong next weekend. This camp will be an exciting opportunity for those not in residency to make a challenge for a place on the team.
The women’s Eagles under Coach Ric Suggitt continue to develop their skills and strength as full time athletes, in the short term we will see the greatest gains in terms of fitness and basic skills. Ric is confident that the women Eagles can build on their final appearance in Las Vegas and narrow loss to Canada. Two notable additions to the women’s squad this week will be Nathalie Marchino and Christy Ringgenberg, both returning from injury and making their way back to full fitness.
On the men’s side, it is never easy to make changes, but the appointment of a new USA Men’s Sevens Head Coach has certainly sharpened everyone’s focus around the squad and I understand that last week’s training was a step up in intensity. Alex Magleby named a roster of 16 players for this weeks training camp ahead of the Hong Kong and Tokyo Sevens later this month. This will be Alex’s first event as Eagles Head Coach and an opportunity to assess the players with Tokyo, Scotland and London events to follow.
Six taxi squad players and ten full-time residents at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista will compete for places on the 12-man traveling roster, the final men’s squad will be named on Wednesday March 14, and the women shortly after.
Andrew Durutalo, Mike Palefau, Miles Craigwell, Nu’u Punimata, Mark Bokhoven, J.P. Eloff, and Nick Edwards all joined the taxi squad this weekend.
Except for Eloff and Edwards, Durutalo, Palefau, Craigwell, Punimata, and Bokhoven are forwards, although Palefau and Craigwell can slot in to the backs if required. Magleby is almost spoiled for choice up front, but every player has an opportunity to make an impression at camp and make his case for selection to the traveling team.
“The focus right now is on getting the culture right – on the field, that means guys willing to do the hard work with utter urgency, no matter what just happened. We can build from that base,” said Magleby.
One of the lessons I learnt when players moved from a part time environment to a full time environment was that the daily training environment and work loads became increasingly important. Too much work and the players became heavy legged and slow, too little and the players become complacent with basic errors sneaking into the game. One interesting development at the Olympic Training Center has been the introduction of a GPS tracking system that measures players individual work rates on the field. It tells us the distance covered, speed and intensity that each player achieves during each session. This information helps us plan each cycle with a greater degree of accuracy and enables us to manage each players workload to achieve the best possible results.
Another area of concern for me is always player accountability. Rugby demands that its players are trained to take responsibility for their individual and collective performance. Players have to make decisions in a split second on the field, they can’t turn to the coach and ask for an answer, they have to think for themselves and be accountable for their actions.
An exciting week ahead for the players, the men will also scrimmage against Guyana on Tuesday, the NACRA Champions will be holding a camp in San Diego this week ahead of their appearance at the Hong Kong sevens.
With an impressive resume as player, coach and administrator, Nigel David Melville took over as CEO and President of Rugby Operations of USA Rugby, the National Governing Body of the sport in America, in 2006. In addition to his full time job promoting the sport in the U.S., Melville has launched his own blog, Nigel Melville Direct, to further the discussion and his passion for what it will take to make the U.S. a great rugby playing nation.
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