Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Interview with University of Washington coach Kevin Swiryn

My alma mater, UW.
The University of Washington did not qualify for the College 7's Nationals held this past weekend, however, like many other programs around the country it is taking a step forward not only in 7's but in infrastructure and organization as well. One of those leading the charge at the University of Washington is former Eagle Kevin Swiryn. Kevin was nice enough to sit down for a few minutes to talk about the program.

Take the jump to read the interview.

This Is American Rugby: UW is not known for its rugby program. How is the program trying to improve both on and off the field?

Kevin Swiryn: First things first, you have to have a strong core group of guys that are committed to training and committed to the goals they set out. We believe we have that and that's our foundation. From here, we have to start to bring in more and more players, whether it's from within the University, or even better, recruiting experienced high school rugby players to come to UW. Our challenge off the field is growing the brand of rugby within the University and steps are being taken to do that and thankfully, progress is being made.

TIAR: What kinds of facilities are available to the team? As a club sport, is it more difficult trying to find field time and to use various resources?

KS: We have a pretty amazing field to train on. For the most part, we train on the football teams' practice field. Field turf, wide enough for rugby and soccer and staring at the newly redesigned Husky football stadium, makes it a great place to train every night, no matter the weather. We don't have a designated weight room, but there's a world class facility for all students at UW and our kids do weight lifting there.

TIAR: How does UW go about recruiting players?

KS: We've been working hard to build a network of high school coaches in order to expand that process. UW is a great place to get an education and ultimately, that has to be our sell. We want the kids that are going to excel in the classroom, otherwise, they won't be able to manage their time well enough to play rugby at the same time. Education has to come first and it's important that a kid chooses UW for the education and rugby second. For on the field recruiting, we have 5 committed coaches, a major step up from last year when our head coach, Brian Schoener, took over midseason and was solo. Three of those coaches are ex-eagles, but everyone has a lot of experience to share and this a huge benefit for the kids that join the club.

TIAR: As college rugby makes more room for 7’s in its schedule, how is UW adjusting their program?

KS: I wouldn't say college rugby has made room for 7's, they've substituted a potential fall 15's season (or a normal friendly season in the fall) for a fall 7's season. This a huge challenge, for all schools I'm sure, because those new kids that come out won't get a chance to play in a game until when...November or December at best? There's just not enough bandwidth, both for coaches and players, to be able have 7's and 15's games going on simultaneously in the fall. It's my first year with it, and we've already talked about the drastic adjustments we need to make next year.

TIAR: How is the program reaching out to alumni? How can alumni, or interested individuals, get involved with the program?

KS: A few guys from the late 90's early 2000's started an alumni association a couple years ago and Jack Huddleston, one of the first team members from early on at UW, started an endowment. These are huge steps in our growth as club. The alumni need to work more/harder to reach out to other alumni, but we/I understand the process is difficult. This year is our 50th anniversary as a rugby club at UW and it's the best time for alumni to get back into the mix, most importantly, just showing up to matches and getting involved somehow.

TIAR: The Northwest is steadily growing as a rugby power, both in terms of interest and in producing players, why do you think is driving that growth?

KS: I think this is true all over, not just the NW. However, there's a huge growth in the ability and numbers of our youth in the NW. There are specific people involved in different youth programs and/or Rugby WA that do a tremendous amount of work to grow this sport. People are raving about Serevi Rugby as well, which has done some things that no one else has had the capability of doing before. It may not show now, but in the years to come, this will be a huge part of the growth of our sport in the NW.

If people want to get involved they can go to www.huskyrugby.com and find the scores, schedule and updates, as well as a way to email the coaches or alumni association.

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