On a cool late winter spring weekend in March, USAR and Serevi Rugby held a two-day High Performance Training Camp on the University of Maryland campus in College Park, led by USA Women’s 7s Coach Ric Suggitt, USA Men’s and Women’s Assistant Coach Richie Walker, and Serevi Coach and former Eagle Pate Tuilevuka.
Unique to this camp was the attendance of several members of our active military service, who play rugby when not defending our country at home and abroad. Rugby and the U.S. Military have held a special bond for years, but in the below reports from a Marine Sergeant and an Army Captain you’ll hear just how much crossover there is between the skills and fitness needed in each endeavor. Big thanks to both of these gentlemen for their service to our country, and for sharing their passion for the game.
Sergeant Corey Parker
U.S. Marines Corps – Quantico, Virginia
My name is Corey Parker I am a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps where my military occupational specialty is as a CH-46E helicopter crew chief. I am currently stationed Quantico, VA, which is where I started playing rugby and have been playing off and on for about three years. Prior to my current duty station I was stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA from where I was deployed to Al Asad, Iraq in 2009.
Prior to playing rugby I played baseball as a kid until high school, with one year of roller hockey somewhere in the middle. So rugby has been my first sport with any major physical contact and I love every minute of it.
The two most important things I’ve learned at the USAR/Serevi Camp are that you have to trust the other players on your team to support you on and off the field, and that there is a substantial need for communication.
Rugby has been a huge impact on my professional career as it takes a lot of mental toughness, critical thinking, teamwork, and fitness to push through a tough rugby game. These same aspects are just as important in the military. You need to be able to focus and complete the difficult tasks are put in front of you and your team.
I hope to use all of the camps that I have attended to help improve each player that comes through my team, and to one day possibly get looked at by U.S. coaches for either national team. If I can’t play for USA rugby I would love to be part of their staff and support them through the Olympics and now, the Rugby World Cup.
Captain Matthew Ryan
U.S. Army – Afghanistan
My name is Captain Matthew Ryan, I have been serving in the Army on active duty since I graduated from Xavier University and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 2008. I have served with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC and with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, NY. I am a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and as I write this article I have less than six weeks remaining in my deployment. For the last 8 months I have been serving as an advisor to Afghan Security Forces, and it has been equally rewarding as it has been frustrating.
Recently while back home on R&R, I attended the USA Rugby/Serevi High Performance Training camp at the University of Maryland. I have been playing rugby since I was 17, but I really only have about a year of experience playing sevens, and I looked at this as an opportunity to learn from the best.
Going into the camp, I didn’t really know what to expect, except that there was probably going to be a lot of running. I was also hoping that we were going to do some hitting, since I had a lot of pent-up aggression from being in Afghanistan. On the first day we started with some basic drills. We worked on passing, decision-making, tackling, and defensive alignments. I loved how each drill we did throughout the day built upon the previous drills, forcing the players to focus on the basics of what we were learning, and not just forget what we had previously gone over. The second day we ramped up the intensity, working on a lot of the same things as the day before, only faster. The coaches ensured we were switched on from the start, and the pace of the day forced us to stay focused on what we were doing. My favorite part of the camp was after lunch on the second day, when we finally got into some full contact scrimmaging. It really brought out the best in everybody, and there was some fantastic rugby being played. Overall, the camp was an amazing experience, and from the abundance of young talent I saw there, the future of USA rugby is looking good.
For me, playing rugby has had so many positive impacts on my career as an Army officer. From fitness, to mental toughness, teamwork, and especially stress relief, rugby has helped me in all aspects of my professional life. As an officer, you are expected to be physically fit, and not be able to just meet the physical fitness standards, but to vastly exceed them at all times. Being fit enough to play rugby, especially sevens, ensures that I maintain the appropriate level of fitness that is expected as an officer. Teamwork is another major parallel between being a rugby player and being in the military. Rugby is the ultimate team sport. In every part of the game, a team will not be successful without working together. From passing, to rucking, to playing defense, if anyone out on that pitch plays as an individual, the result will never be good. The same thing goes for anything we do in the military. It is a team effort to accomplish any mission, whether it is in combat or in training.
At this point, I am focused on maintaining my fitness so that I am ready to step on the pitch as soon as I get back home. There will not be any time to waste trying to get in shape or get back in shape. There are a lot of tournaments that I am looking forward to playing in this summer, especially the Liberty Cup in New York City on June 14th. I’m also hoping to get a shot at re-joining the All Army sevens team this summer. My long-term goal, which will take a tremendous amount of hard work to achieve, is to be nominated for the Army’s World Class Athlete Program and spend my days in Chula Vista getting paid to play rugby. For now, I’ll focus on getting better, because better never stops.