Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Look Inside The Serevi Academy

The Olympic Development Academy system is still young, less than a year old, but already it's producing results. All one has to do is look at the success of the Northeast ODA at the World Club 7's, and Tiger Rugby at several tournaments around the world to see that the program is paying dividends. But what exactly makes an academy and academy? We went to the Serevi Academy in Seattle to find out.

The only thing marking out the Serevi Academy gym from the industrial buildings just north of CenturyLink and Safeco Fields in Seattle is the Serevi logo on the door. Despite the lack of attention, inside is one of the busiest rugby gyms in the country. Serevi partnered with N-S Performance to establish the gym that not only has a healthy equipment section but also room for physio and a decent-sized pitch. As we visited it was clear for the onset that all parts fit into the Serevi Academy model of focusing on all parts of player development--skills, fitness, and nutrition.

Take the jump to read more.
Serevi California
The day we arrived most of the nationally recognized players had the day off after playing in a tournament the weekend prior. Still, the gym was busy. Between the facility in Seattle and another facility in Chicago the Serevi Academy has over 80 participants and growing. Only a handful of those participates are elite players like Miles Craigwell or Kellen Gordon. Most of the players training are still very much in development mode. The Serevi Academy is open to anyone who is committed and wants to become a better rugby player. They have youth, senior, men's and women's programs. Serevi is also looking to expand into California. Those kind of numbers are impressive when you consider that the facility has only been open a few months.

Participants in the academy are in the gym two times a week to lift and do other fitness activities. They then head out on to the pitch one day a week for a skill session. For youth players it's reversed. For most players this comes on top of their club duty. Players also have sessions where they learn about what to put into their bodies and general nutrition.

Ben Gollings, who was running the Academy the morning we went explains it this way: "The Academy's here as a stepping stone in player's development. We're trying to help players reach their goals of making the national team. We're giving guys what they wouldn't get at the club level. They'd get rugby but what we're trying to do is add in that professionalism and the ability to consistently train. We also want them to get the right training by looking after themselves, working in the gym, and getting top level conditioning. Of course on the field we're working on their skill base. It's really looking at the whole of a players development--nutrition, game analysis, etc."

Serevi California
Gollings noted that ideally the participants would be training four or five days a week. It may eventually get to that point but the aim was not to "overload them when they're not used to that training load."

So has there been an improvement in the participants? According to Gollings there has. "Absolutely. The players have certainly noticed it in themselves. Their body, their skills, have improved two fold. The idea here is to empower the players and pass on what we've learned in our career here. The great thing is they're like sponges at the moment and taking it all on board. They're getting a lot out of it and enjoying it, which is what we want."

Serevi California
The players are noticing the results as well. TC Elliott who plays with Seattle-OPSB, says that "it's a rigorous schedule but it really improves our game." Elliott wakes up at 5:30 Monday and Wednesday to attend training before heading off to work in construction. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings he has practice with Seattle-OPSB and then another session on the field on Wednesday.

Still, it's something he says he couldn't get any where else. "It's rugby specific. They know what we're doing on the field so they tailor the workouts towards 7's or 15's specific depending on your goals. The player is optimized for the game not just to be an athlete in general." He added that "tonight we're going to do a health session and work on our eating plans. We want to put the right nutrients in our bodies, making sure we don't eat McDonald's hamburgers but eat a balance diet."

It may be natural to think of the Serevi Academy as a platform for the Seattle-OPSB men's and women's teams. While many players from Seattle-OPSB do take advantage of the facilities players from other clubs are more than welcome. Rhys Lloyd, who attends and plays for the University of Washington, is one such player. "Everything," was Lloyd response when asked what he could take back to the Huskies. "This a great experience and great work out. It's going to make me and my team that much better." Gollings did note that some other clubs in the area were hesitant to send players to the academy but but the goal wasn't to help Seattle-OPSB but to make better rugby players.

Serevi California
That's something that Elliott says is a big advantage for the academy. "The biggest thing they bring is a professional atmosphere. Rugby is professionalized in a lot of countries and we want to professionalize in America. This brings the atmosphere and the work rate of professionalism."

Ultimately the goal of the academy is to find and train better rugby players that can go on to help the Eagles, either in 15's or 7's. "The one difficulty about America is that it's such a big area in terms of trying to find and nurture talent," explained Gollings. "It's a big ask especially for a national team coach who has a lot on their hands trying to develop the players you have already.  Hopefully we can help in finding and developing some of those players until they're ready to go straight in the national set-up."

The jury is still out on whether the ODA's are going to produce players for the national team but what is clear is that the Serevi Academy, as well as other academies, provide a better platform than what has existed previously.


  1. Where does the funding come from?

    1. The players pay a fee to use the gym. However, it's cheaper than using your neighborhood gym.

  2. Would love to have an equivalent on the east coast.

  3. Need one here in Boston-there are some HS students that would love this