Atlanta, Georgia – Following the success of last month’s inaugural Major League Rugby draft, the snake pit here at Rugby ATL has just grown a little larger, with the arrival of our first two picks, Michael Matarazzo and John Scotti. Each player drove down last weekend, in order to be checked out by the athletic training staff and begin participating in organized team activities. Last Monday, our two newest young men found themselves making a series of introductions; to the coaches and staff, to the facility through a tour, and to their baselines with the club, through physical screenings to assess their mobility and mechanics. After their official check-in, the men completed their first workout in the gym, setting a standard for the work that they hope to put in for this franchise.
Last Tuesday, both picks found themselves at Life University, the home ground of Rugby ATL, to bear witness to the pace of a high-intensity training session that involved both skills drills and competitive games. John Scotti’s working through a hamstring injury and could not participate, though Michael Matarazzo did. After a check-in with the Athletic Training Staff to verify that every participant had an acceptable temperature, Matarazzo and the rest of Rugby ATL’s Wider Training Group were put through a ninety-minute session that involved intervals of training the skills of their pass and catch, along with impassioned touch rugby matches, to foster the competitive spirit of the group.
The remainder of the week mirrored how the picks first week in their new home had begun, with days split between sessions of lifting weights in the gym or practicing skills on the field, coupled with all of the recovery and rehabilitation necessary to establish a good baseline of work for the upcoming season.
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Atlanta, Georgia – For this week’s episode of our informational live series, ‘The RATL Roundup,’ Rugby ATL had on three of our newest residents on-camera to chat about their experiences so far, members of our Summer Residency Camp, Rocco Arnold of St. Bonaventure University, Dominic Odden of St. John’s University, and Damoreon Travis of Life University. After a rigorous and meaningful first week of camp, the three young men gathered around our granite island in the player lounge to talk about their initial experiences.
Dom Odden grew up in a small suburb outside of Minneapolis, and started playing the game of rugby as a high school junior. As a defensive lineman in American football, Dom enjoyed using his physicality in sport, and was turned onto rugby union through his positional coach. Upon graduating high school, Dom was eager to join the team at his college, and as a member of the back row, he’s continued to work on the physicality, body profile, and explosiveness that he first learned through football.
Damoreon Travis was a folk style wrestler and running back from Louisville, Kentucky. Well versed in the concepts of grappling and tackling other players, as well as ball carrying and evading defenders, Damoreon is not unfamiliar with the core skills to rugby union. First arriving at Life University to join the wrestling team, Damoreon quickly solidified his presence on the men’s undergrad rugby team, while learning from working in the same environment as Life alumni and our current professional’s, Duncan Van Schalkwyk, Harley Wheeler, & Julian Montes.
Rocco Arnold moved around a lot as a kid. Born on an Air Force base in Florida, he later moved: to England, back to Florida, to Colorado, to Germany, to South Carolina, and finally to Buffalo, New York, where his dad is originally from. That was during his junior year of high school, and was when Rocco first started playing rugby, for Orchard Park. The chance to play for a club comprised of a few different communities gave Rocco the chance to connect with kids from inside and outside of his new hometown, West Seneca, New York. his experience with this club also gave him the opportunity to meet Coach Tui Osborne of St. Bonaventure, and inevitably led to his decision to attend St. Bonaventure and play rugby for the Bonnies.
As our Summer Residency Camp finishes the first quarter of their itinerary, all three of these young men spoke of how they found themselves supported by the coaches and staff of Rugby ATL, and how grateful they were for their own unique pathways that led them to spend their summer training in the 404. If you would like to learn more about our Summer Residency Camp through our live series, go online to our Rugby ATL page on YouTube, give our video a like, and subscribe to our page to stay updated for more online content.
Seventeen new faces stepped into Headquarters on the morning of Monday, July 6th, as the first members of Rugby ATL’s Summer Residency Camp of our new youth development program, Pathway 404. College players from all around the Eastern Seaboard and the midwest made their way down to Marietta over the weekend, to take part in the franchise’s first-ever development program tailored for collegiate players.
In what began with a Sunday onboarding session, the new group of players from schools like American International College, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s University, Central Washington University, and Kennesaw State all came in force to headquarters with a desire to #PushthePACE. The boys met with ATL’s Head Coach Scott Lawrence, Vice President of Operations Kevin McCorry, and the two professional players who will serve as Head and Assistant Coaches of the camp, Neethling Gericke and Kurt Coleman.
The first full day of camp consisted of: a tour of the new space, orthopedic screenings and biomechanics assessments, followed by discussions on athlete performance from our director Matt Dallow, baseline tests of speed and aerobic capacity, and a skills session to end the day with a rugby ball in hand. In each activity, player groups were split in order to optimize social distancing, and each athlete was acquainted with the precautions we are currently taking with our players and staff, in both the training environment and at home, to continue to do our part to contain the transmission and spread of the COVID-19 disease.
For the coming weeks, our new team members will get to experience what life as a professional athlete means here at Rugby ATL. They’ll live in our player housing, use our equipment and facilities daily, and rub elbows with (metaphorically speaking) members from all realms of the organization: trainers, coaching staff, contracted players, and current members of the Senior side of the 404 development team. By the time each camper has to go home, he will be returning to his home, university, and club with an invaluable experience; he will bring back with him the core values of our organization, and will continue to #PushthePACE.
Atlanta, Georgia – This week, on ‘The RATL Roundup,’ Rugby ATL had on some of the earliest members of the franchise, in Sam Peri, Samuel Chaney, and Eamonn Matthews. A little over a year ago, each man dropped what he was doing at the time for a shot at becoming a professional athlete in the MLR, joining Rugby ATL for the fall development season with the 404.
Eamonn left his home in New Jersey, after a foundational rugby experience at the illustrious Xavier High School of New York, and a college career as the star scrumhalf at St. Bonaventure University, represented the United States at the Under 20 level and captained his university side for his final two years of school. Through his coach, Eamonn got in touch with Coach Scott Lawrence, and after a visit in April of 2019, he committed to coming down to Atlanta for the fall development season.
Sam Peri came to Atlanta’s rugby scene after establishing himself as a lock and back rower with Lamorinda Rugby Club and making the high school All-Americans, before playing for the University of Arizona Wildcats, San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club, and most notably the San Diego Legion. Picking up the game at ten years old, Sam’s let the game lead him along his life path, motivating him to develop into his best self as a person and a player. When Sam finished his college career, high caliber west coast teams like the San Diego Legion of the MLR and San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club of the Pacific Rugby Premiership were lucky to take on a player of his pedigree, but when the chance came to challenge himself once again by joining the 404 and playing with Rugby ATL.
Samuel Chaney came to Rugby ATL with a different story than the two city-based rugby players who sat next to him. Raised in West Helena, Arkansas, “Rev” grew up in a community centered around football and faith. Samuel first began playing the game of rugby at college in Ohio, about seven years ago. Schooled in theology, and rotating through a couple of universities, “Rev” played in the front row for Cedarville University, the University of Arkansas, John Brown University, and following school for the Little Rock Stormers, and the Stars Selects on tours to play Lindenwood, Dallas, and the NOLA Gold. Sitting out on a Samoan beach, Sam had to cut his house-building mission trip short to try out for Rugby ATL with the 404.
As three men who came together in confluence here at Rugby ATL, each admitted that this experience has been a source of pronounced growth for them, attributing it to the wealth of knowledge around the facility, the culture around the organization, and the resource of the community. Giving themselves to the structure of professional rugby in Atlanta, these men are a testament to the willpower necessary for American rugby players to continue to rise through the ranks of their environments and #PushthePACE.
In the final video of our ‘Rugby 101’ educational installment, pro player Neets Gericke recaps our lesson plan from the past few months, where we went over: attack and defense, the field and terminology, positions and their traditional roles, the set pieces, the breakdown, and kicking. As we move on from our learning series, if you have any further questions about the game of rugby union or our organization Rugby ATL, don’t hesitate to comment on our videos or reach out to us during our weekly ‘RATL Roundup.’