As told by Raptors Head Coach, David Williams
Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 8.17.18, the location – Glendale’s Infinity Park Stadium
It is no secret that this fall season is a rebuilding time for the Glendale Raptors. Following a solid inaugural season in which we lost only two matches and finished second in the league, we saw a couple of our Raptors’ head overseas with professional contracts. In addition, several of our associate (part-time) players with young families and/or full-time careers decided to take the season off to recuperate, and we saw a couple others look at hanging up their boots for good. With that said, we do still have a majority of our Raptors team returning for 2019, but it’s also becoming increasingly evident that we have a few big gaps to fill during the off-season.
We have scheduled this early exhibition match against the Collegiate All-American’s (CAA’s) as not only a way to test our new players, but also as an opportunity to scout the collegiate pool of talent, as these young gentlemen will be the future – not only for our Major League Rugby Teams, but for our National Teams, as well.
As a former USA Rugby High Performance coach, I know the amount of time it takes to develop an elite rugby player. It doesn’t happen in a week or a month; often times not even a year. The CAA’s coaching staff also knows this, and this week-long selection camp that they are holding here in Glendale does not mark the beginning of these young players’ development. Many of the players named to the team tonight will have been playing rugby for years and have been training full time at the top collegiate rugby programs in the country – Life University, Lindenwood, St. Mary’s and University of California Berkley to name a few. And, most likely the coaches will utilize this – playing many teammates together and subbing players in and out in groups – to keep this continuity in both their attack and defense.
This will no doubt be a tough test for our team as we are also bringing in a lot of new, young talent for tonight’s game. We continue to look to our Academy program as a primary feeder system, but for this first exhibition match, we have also identified some of our DI Merlins, plus standouts from the summer Vail rugby program, to help build our athlete pool. We are eager to see who steps up and proves themselves. Game time is essential in learning how players operate under pressure. And there’s no pressure like stepping onto a pitch in front of selectors, coaches and a thousand fans.
Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 8.20.18, the location – Glendale’s High Altitude Training Center
Well, obviously our 55-10 loss to the Collegiate All-Americans was definitely not the way we wanted Friday night’s match to go, but it did prove to be a good learning experience for us and our players. I don’t want to take anything away from the CAA’s, they played extremely well and I think I can speak for all who watched this match when I say the future looks very bright for rugby in America.
However, I also have to admit, that we were very disappointed in the way we played. We went in very naïve and the All-Americans exploited that. We weren’t ready for the speed and intensity in which the collegiate players came; and although, we had some of our players step up accordingly, many others didn’t. Of course, that is what this season is for – to pinpoint where we are weak, and continue to learn and improve. So, for this week, we are getting back to work on some of the basics – our rucks, set pieces, defense and passing skills.
We are grateful to USA Rugby and the CAA program for coming in and allowing us the opportunity to identify players who are ready for this level of play and those who aren’t. To have a selection camp like that in your backyard is a huge undertaking, but also an important one and we are very appreciative to those who made it possible, including the Glendale staff, who worked diligently to provide them with adequate meeting space and training fields. We have another few weeks of training and scouting, and then our next big test will be against the Ontario Arrows in September where we hope to redeem ourselves.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]