This was originally posted here at the Nuff Said 6 blog on June 9, 2010
Recently I tried out for the Pacific Coast Grizzlies Rugby Sevens Team. The Grizzlies are a select side team meaning that they are made up of the best players from the pacific northwest region, and are one step below the U.S. national team. In fact, quite a few national team members play for the Grizzlies. Since I’ve only been playing rugby for a few months my main goal in attending the tryouts was to learn as much as I could from top notch coaches and players. I learned a ton. The three main lessons I learned were improve my speed, improve my muscular endurance, and lastly, it’s actually really good to be older.
The first thing I learned was an inkling of the kind of crazy conditioning needed to play sevens. After a bit of dynamic warm up exercises we tested our 40 yard dash times running on grass. Mine came in at 5.4 seconds. I’d like to knock at least a good half to a full second off of this time. This seems reasonable to me given my limited to almost non-existent sprint training over the past few years, and just off of a gut feeling that I was running anywhere near as fast as I’m capable of running.
The second lesson learned also dealt with conditioning. As an endurance test, were to run several hundred yard sprints. In college we ran three sets of ten 120 yard sprints, performed on the minute, with the remainder of the minute to recover until the next sprint, with a 3 minute break in between each set of ten. This amounted to over 2 miles of all out sprinting. That was one of the toughest workouts that I have ever done. This one was tougher.
For this workout, we had 18 seconds to sprint 100 yards, and then 42 seconds to jog back to the start. That counted as one. The goal was to complete 10 of those in 10 minutes. I completed 4 1/2 before I missed my time. I recover very quickly when I have a full rest, but the active recovery during the jog back proved to be the toughest part. Ultimately I’d like to be able to do 3×10 of these with a one minute break in between each set. That should cover a sevens championship match with two over time periods.
The third lesson was that it’s actually good to be older. At 34, I was the oldest person trying out by at least 6 years, with most of the other players in their early twenties. Since my main goal of the tryout was to learn, I spent a lot of time asking the coaches questions and for tips on specific techniques, or ways to practice these techniques at home on my own. While standing in line I’d visualize the technique or drill and practice the body mechanics. Afterwards, one of the coaches commented how much he appreciated the questions and positive, proactive attitude, and that no one else had been coming up to them. Not until then did I realize that anything I was doing was out of the ordinary.
It made me think of my experiences as a coach and how much I like it when players take the initiative to do more than what’s asked of them, and how seldom that actually happens. So this then of course brought up the question, “why is that?” Thinking back, this was also true for my parents who were, and friends that are teachers. They all love it when kids would stay behind and ask them for help, but would rarely have kids that would do this.
The answer that came to mind was differences in life experience. When I was younger, I had a lot of practice teaching myself and learning different skills, such as skateboarding, juggling, and unicycling. The best way I found to learn theses skills was through focussed repetitions, gradually progressing in difficulty or complexity. I know what works best for me. Younger kids are still most likely figuring out the best ways for them to learn, if they are even aware that there are different ways to learn.
Secondly, my life experiences competing at a high level, working as a firefighter, coaching, and being involved with RKC program have further cultivated my outlook as a student of sport, and given me some perspective. If I had been the same age as most the other players, or the same age as the kids I coach, in retrospect, I might have felt a little intimidated or uncomfortable going up to one of the coaches and asking for help or clarification, especially in a tryout situation. Here, having all of these previous experiences allowed me to subconsciously identify someone who was eager to teach (as pretty much all us coaches are) and then take full advantage of that. So, for younger players that are looking to advance in your sport, job, schooling or anything else in life, when you come across someone that can help you learn, remember the more effort they see you putting into something, and the more proactive you are, the more they’ll want to help you.