Saturday, January 10, 2015

Columbus Women Add Education to Preparation for 2015 Start

On the field, rugby is definitely a thinking man's game - for some more than others - but success on the field begins with preparation off the field. That's where the collection of Columbus-based lady ruggers of W1823 find themselves as they prepare for the new year's competition schedule.

After the 2014 summer sevens series wrapped up and the run at Nationals began, W1823 sat two points shy of a playoff berth - not a bad way to end an inaugural season that began with them losing to teams like the Youngbloodz and Lions by wide margins. During the run of tournaments, the gaps narrowed and players made more progress. This is the trend Joel Bonnaud, head coach of the Columbus-based women's side, is trying to continue as he and his women look ahead to the new competitive calendar.

The W1823 ladies join in on a Tiger Academy training session in Columbus during their off-season preparation.
The W1823 ladies join in on a Tiger Academy training session
in Columbus during their off-season preparation
from the W1823 Facebook page.
"We worked hard on getting the basics right individually and team structure - and it worked," he said, regarding his team's method of preparation for the 2014 season. "The two main lessons we learned were that: it's all about getting the basics right and the athlete-centered coaching approach is definitely the way to go."

Though Bonnaud's players have been fulfilling obligations to other teams, Bonnaud has kept them working hard with a regiment that included practicing with the men at the Tiger Academy,  Sunday skill sessions and preseason fitness training. Bonnaud said his players have made huge strides from where they were six months ago, but their performance in a recent sevens tournament showed that there was still work that needed to be done.

"The Thanksgiving Tournament in New York clearly showed that they lost [strides] in mental strength and execution quality, especially at contact," he said. "That is why I will re-calibrate our winter and spring preparation a bit around those two topics."

Fitness, execution and hammering home the basics are standard fare for most any practice session. Bonnaud plans to add some different material to accent the physical gains the women will make in the gym and ensure that they can use their sharpened skills to the best of their ability. The two new additional focus areas are nutrition and mental strength. According to Bonnaud, each player has a specific nutrition plan she is supposed to follow. Each plan is unique and tailored for each player to specify her needs and fit in with her individual lifestyle.

"The nutrition development goes hand-in-hand with the fitness one and is key to ensuring that players are getting one hundred per cent of the benefits from their hard work in the gym," he said. "Following a strict diet builds up discipline."

A compilation photo from the W1823 Facebook page of the ladies playing their way through the previous season.
A compilation photo from the W1823 Facebook page
of the ladies playing their way through the previous season.
Dietary discipline isn't where the mental aspect of the W1823 training regiment stops, though. Following their performance at the New York tournament, each player underwent an individual assessment in order to gauge what each player needs to effectively prepare for a match. It's the combination of nutritional awareness, mental strength as well as everything that's gained from the weights and workouts that Bonnaud believes will give his women a permanent edge.

"Better fitness and a stronger mind will provide one hundred per cent delivery all throughout tournaments - no matter what," Bonnaud said.

All this preparation is in preparation to help W1823 to achieve some lofty goals on the field. Specifically, the team is eyeing a proposed tournament put on by the Atlanta Harlequins that will run alongside the leg of the World Rugby Women's 7s and the Midwest summer sevens series to follow. Bonnaud knows that these two competitive endeavors will provide a tough test for his players, but with the foundation they are laying in the preseason he is confident in what they can achieve.

"The key is to make sure that we regain our mental strength and consistency in execution," he said. "If we can deliver on those elements, then we will be a competitive team - I have no doubt."

Bonnaud said that along with the the mental strength and excellence in execution, his team has matured in how they attack on offense, allowing them to punch through defensive lines at any place on the field. The W1823 team isn't just preparing for execution and cohesion on the field. All the practicing and training is to help them all come together off the field as well.

"Being competitive is one thing, but it's good to have fun along the way," Bonnaud said. "The best is when you see players completely wiped out at the end of a really high-intensity and quality practice, but all of them are happy because they had a blast playing fun and games all along."

Joel Bonnaud and the women of W1823 have a lot of work ahead of them. Together they are working hard on and off the field to ensure they have the most successful and satisfying start to 2015 possible. The hope is that the training that the women undergo will allow them to grow as people while obtaining success during this year's slate of competition and beyond.

Bonnaud is welcoming more players into his ranks. Recent developments have allowed the team to provide more amenities to new incoming players. As long as players have the right mindset going in, joining is as simple as sending an e-mail.

"We are all about players' development, so what matters is mindset not rugby experience level. Unlike last year, we now have the opportunity to help find lodging for the summer," Bonnaud said. "So, if you want to join you are in - simple as that."

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