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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Institutional Indifference Not Helping Women Eagles 7s


After their very disappointing results in Dubai, it's hard to figure out what kind of team the Women Eagles 7s are at the moment. On the one hand there is no getting past how they consistently let results get away from them in Dubai. Most of their matches were close, with only the loss in Canada decided by more than a try, but last year they would have won those matches, many of them by multiple tries. On the other hand, the bulk of the team is there and has another year of experience under their belts. Players like Alev Kelter are quietly becoming some of the best players in the world.

The poor performance in Dubai is worrying. As a result of the lack of caring among several unions around the world (let's just call it for what it is) World Rugby has pared down the Series from six stops to five. That's not a lot of time to get things right before Rio. All the women's teams competing in Rio were already shortchanged in their opportunities to step up and now they even less time to get ready. Maybe with 10 tournaments like the men the women wouldn't have to seriously think about their future if they had a bad tournament but the women simply don't have that luxury.

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Aside from the failings of World Rugby, the Women Eagles 7s haven't exactly been given the best preparation this year. After qualifying for Rio they underwent a coaching change. We're going to say straight up that Jules McCoy is the right person to lead the team and given time she will have them in a good spot. However, the key is time. One year out from the Olympics, having already sealed qualification, and with only a handful of tournaments to prepare, is not the time to change your coach.  If U.S.A. Rugby wanted McCoy as a coach (if we're being honest Ric Suggitt had his team positioned to challenge for a medal at the end of his tenure so it was a personality change, not a results change) they should have done it prior to the beginning of last season.

Frankly, it shows a level of indifference from the higher ups at U.S.A. Rugby that the change was managed this way. Make no mistake, the likes of Alex Magleby and those on the ground in Chula Vista are working hard to help the team. There are more residents than ever before. Even the everyday staff of U.S.A. Rugby supports the team. The problem is that the team is simply not resourced as well as the men (some of that is from World Rugby) even though they had the best chance at the medal until the men's recent surge.

McCoy made a lot of changes in Dubai with several players at different positions and some players, notably Kelly Griffin, coming off the bench when they started last year. Those changes may work down the road but if they don't the U.S. has gone from contending for a medal to just happy to participate. That's a real shame. There is still time but U.S.A. Rugby and the USOC are going to have to get creative. That means playing at the Las Vegas Invitational and a potential tournament in Vancouver. That also means inviting teams for mini-tournaments in San Diego throughout the year. McCoy's changes can pay off big and lead the U.S. to more than just contending for a medal but they have to be institutionally supported.

The positive for fans of the team is that the pieces are there. We've already mentioned Kelter but other players can be huge for the team. Lauren Doyle, Griffin, and players like Kathryn Johnson are all solid players that are only getting better. Richelle Stephens is coming into her own and when Vix Folayan returns from injury the U.S. will have an automatic scorer. Even if the preparation is not great and U.S.A. Rugby and World Rugby haven't exactly helped the team, at least they have the personnel (coach included) to make a run in Rio.

2 comments:

  1. It pains me to see the women's program sliding so drastically. For the most part, they have not fired on all cylinders for any extended length of time. This inconsistency is what most likely brought about the change in coach.

    My question is to why there is not more cohesion within the men's and women's programs. If it was me, I would give the women's salary to Friday and Brown to have them run both programs. Train them all at the same time and streamline the style of play.

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  2. I'm not sure you know what you are talking about. Only people at the training center truly know what is happening with that team. Coach McCoy, although good at the club level, has not been on the circuit for a number of year and I think that has shown in Dubai. Being able to coach a club team to a national championship, like she did with the ARPTC is nice and all, but that does not translate over to an international tournament. She has brought in a number of players from her team, which almost seems like a monopoly within the system (Magelby didn't bring in any Dartmouth player when he was coach), and it doesnt show that they have contested for a spot thus far with Dubai already played. And you cant say that it is too early to tell, the girls only have a select number of tournaments to play anyways. The best option is to continue to develop cohesion between the players that played under Suggitt as they know how to play with one another. The men's team rarely have changes made to the lineup, keeping starters together and knowing how to play with one another. Look at the way McCoy changed the lineup throughout Dubai... There weren't any games that the starting team remained the same, therefore ruining any cohesion between any group of player. Any team around the world, men or women, know that keeping a core group together will better a team, player have more time together and learn to play with each other. Get the bench players to buy into what the coaches have to say and play as if they are a starter and the team will succeed. Without any cohesion amongst a playing group, the players will become unaccustomed to playing with anyone familiar therefore creating mistakes on the field.

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