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.’
On this episode of ‘Rugby 101,’ pro player Neets Gericke helps us understand the nuances around the kicking game of rugby. With the help of our tactical kickers Kurt Coleman and Duncan Van Schalkwyk, we learn about: the main reason to kick, the types of kick available to players, the intended outcomes around kicking, and the process to optimize kicking the rugby ball.
Between the different kicks for territory: using the long kick for distance, putting up a box kick for a chance to compete to retain possession, and kicking a grubber forward to hopefully regather, each particular option shares the same purpose, of being executed to relieve pressure from your own team and then apply it to the opposition. With each of these kick types, we are informed on the importance of a stable ball drop, starting your motion with a good base, keeping your head down and following through.
Also included in this video are the place kick, and the drop kick. The place kick will always be taken for points, but the drop kick is used to restart play, as well as in open play to attempt a drop goal, worth three points. In these kicks, it is crucial that the player attempting their kick is stable in their preparation, has a strong strike with the bone of their foot, and follows through according to the needs of their individual kick.
With this information, our fans now have a grasp of what each team intends to do as they kick the rugby ball; competing for position, possession, or points. Join us again next week as we recap the previous eleven episodes, tying together the masterclass that is ‘Rugby 101.’
Atlanta, Georgia- For this week’s ‘RATL Roundup,’ on June 21st, 2020, Rugby ATL branched out and did something that we had never done before, in response to a historic week. For the seventh episode of our weekly live series, we reached out to our two newest members of Rugby ATL, streaming live from their homes, our two draft picks, Michael Matarazzo and John Scotti.
Speaking about the historic event that was the first-ever college draft for professional rugby in the United States, Matarazzo of Notre Dame opened about the duality of feelings during the event, a mixture of uncertain nerves and intense excitement at the thought of being picked, something that he himself said was not on his radar when he came into school. As Rugby ATL’s first-ever draft pick, Matarazzo’s humility shone through his initial conversation on the Roundup, highlighting his will to be as great of a person off of the pitch as he can be, knowing how that will translate to on-field performances he will be proud of.
Scotti, having had the time to collect himself, told our viewers about the conversation he shared with Coach Scott Lawrence on the morning of the draft, from the thrill of being told that he was on ATL’s radar to the composure to level his feelings in case he was not selected in the draft, which he understood was a possibility, to the inevitable joy of being called again by Scott, and told that the pick for him was in.
As Scotti & Matarazzo outlined their respective paths to the draft, one thing became clear; though both men came from other sports backgrounds, they shared a common fire to step up into the new sport and prove their worth through a commitment to learning and development, personifying the primary value of Rugby ATL.
To hear more about Rugby ATL’s first two draft picks to ever join the club, go online to our YouTube page and search for ‘The RATL Roundup,’ and be sure to tune in to our live stream on Facebook next week.
Following last weeks episode on the tackle, episode ten of our ‘Rugby 101’ video series is an educational masterclass on the contest that immediately follows every tackle: the breakdown.
Beginning with a refresher on the ruck, pro player Neets Gericke explains how a ruck forms when at least one player from each side is in contact on their feet over the ball. Once this happens, players may not use their hands for the ball, and must instead drive over the ruck with their feet. When a ruck has been won, an offsides line is set, at the hindmost foot of the last defender who has entered the ruck.
On the training ground, our players act out the roles and responsibilities of all players involved in the breakdown, along with actions to avoid in order to not be penalized. Coming through the gate, keeping a stable body profile in contact, and finding acceptable “windows” to attack for cleanouts are crucial to both player safety and team success.
Defensively, a few things must happen at every breakdown. First, the tackler must roll away, to avoid being penalized for killing the ball. Any assisting tackler must first release the tackled player, in order to then compete for the turnover.
For either side, beating your opponent in the race to each breakdown is extremely valuable, and can be the difference between a success and a failure. In the instance where both players converge at the breakdown, if the defender still goes for the steal, a referee may verbalize a call to take their hands out of the ruck. At this time, the defenders best move would be to counter-ruck, driving their legs to try and push the supporting attacker off the ball.
The video ends with a drill progression that’s easy to replicate, and practices good habits for the players. We hope you’ve enjoyed our series so far, and look out for our next video on kicking.