Before every major sports season, a pre-season precedes for the players to get back into shape. Fans flock to the football training camps each season to see how the players look since the end of last season. Families take a nice vacation down to Clearwater, Florida for spring training to see who each team picked up in baseball’s winter off-season. The sports teams here at our own West Chester University arrive two weeks early to start the preseason workouts. All except for the women’s rugby team.
I am sure that none of you realized this, nor did I before talking with Coach Tony DeRemer. For the most part, we know what the majority of sports teams go through to prepare for the season ahead, but preparing for a rugby season, for me at least, remained a mystery.
So, this past week, I not only talked to the coach, but I attended practice and conversed with some of the veteran players to see how our very own NCAA tournament qualifiers gear up for the looming season ahead.
To begin, there is a very legitimate reason for rugby not having a preseason. The coach informed me that since it is a two-season sport [fall and spring] rugby is allowed 132 days of practice each school year.
This is to be divided up between the two seasons, and does not allot time for any practices before the school year officially begins, and even when it does, there are only enough practices to use four days a week, with Thursday being a break from practice to condition on your own.
This Friday, I was able to sit in on a practice and see what the team did. After a quick warm up and stretch period, the first thing that captain Erin Furlong led the girls in was a ball handling drill, where they passed the ball as they ran up and down the field in rows of four.
“I am a believer that if you cannot pass the ball or catch it, you are not going to win ball games,” DeRemer said. “There is also a lot of tackling and physical contact during a regular practice. Rugby games are won many times by good defense.”
Passing is a big deal in the sport of rugby, in the form of the lateral. As in football, a forward lateral is illegal in the game of rugby. Other then running the ball downfield, the lateral is the key way of moving the ball down the field. That is why coach DeRemer puts so much emphasis on to this lateral and getting it right.
Along with passing, Coach believes that “a top level rugby team also needs to be physically fit, so we tend to do a lot of running during practice.”
Helping DeRemer out on the field is assistant coach Ashley McCusker, formerly known as Farmer, her maiden name before her recent marriage.
Ashley was a former player here at West Chester, playing with them through the NCAA tournament as well as being named a collegiate All-American and playing for the USA U-23 team. She is out there with the team up and down the sidelines motivating them on and pushing them to give it their all.
One other thing that the team uses that may come as a surprise is videos. This is seen in football a lot, and DeRemer does view videos regularly after games to review the teams performance and point out where they need to improve.
So we know now how the women’s rugby team physically prepares during the week for Saturday’s game. But what about mentally? How do the girls get prepared and psyched up for the game? I approached junior Alison Vandermay and captain Erin Furlong on this at Friday’s practice.
They said that they “had a warm up tape, but we don’t need that usually. We are usually able to pump each other up before the game.”
When I saw the girls at practice, I didn’t doubt that one bit. They have all really created a tight bond with one another. Before practice, they all get in a huddle, where each girl has their arm around the girls on either side of them. This squad is a true representation of a team working together as one.
Saturday, Sept. 13, is the opening game of the Lady Ram’s 2008-2009 campaign. It is one of only two home games the team has this season.
Ryan Frisco is a second-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at RF648257@wcupa.edu.